Protecting Cattle in a Hurricane

July 2005
Gary Mikulecky - Highlands County Extension, Director/Livestock Agent

It is not recommended to evacuate cattle in preparation for a hurricane therefore we have to prepare ahead of time to protect our cattle. Cattle are herd animals which mean they like to stay together and this offers them added protection. They also have the ability to avoid a lot of flying debris. Rescuers, in the past, have noticed that few cattle received substantial injuries during previous hurricanes.


All cattle should have identification. Identification can be ear tag, ear notches, neck chain, brand, microchip or EID (Electronic Identification Device). Make sure you secure the paperwork that shows your ownership. If cattle can't be identified and returned to the owner they are awarded to the state. This is another reason to get a Premise ID and put EIDs on your cattle.


Don't keep your cattle in the barn to prevent debris injury. If your barn collapses – and there is no way to insure that it won't – cattle have no chance to save themselves and are likely to panic if they can't follow their instincts. Relocate livestock to a predetermined safe area. Ensure that they have access to hay, pasture, clean water, a safe area or high ground above flood levels. Do not rely on automatic watering systems, because power may be lost. Close barn and/or stall doors. If cattle are used to sheltering in a barn they will try to enter it when threatened.

Open all interior pasture gates. The safest place for cattle to weather a storm is in a large pasture. Cattle may suffer debris injuries, but at least they now have a chance. It should have as many of these attributes as possible: free of exotic trees, no overhead power lines, be well away from areas that might generate wind driven debris, have both low areas that animals can shelter in during the storm, (preferably a pond), and higher areas that will not be flooded after the storm and have woven wire fencing.

Emergency Medical Care

Having the proper medical supplies will help with emergency medical care and management of your cattle. Riders and horses will be needed to round up stray cattle. Restraint equipment will also be needed: portable chutes and corrals, lariats, and rope halters. Trauma cases may require veterinary assistance. Euthanasia may be the most humane treatment option. This may require the use of controlled substances. Consult with your veterinary and plan carefully. If you are forced to euthanize an animal use medical, penetrating captive bolt, or a firearm. After euthanasia be sure you record animal ID, date of death and reason for euthanasia.


Animal carcasses should be disposed of by a commercial rendering service or other appropriate means. Disposal should be made in accordance with all Federal, State and local regulations. The Highlands County Landfill will accept animal carcasses from Highlands County residents. There is one stipulation – you must be able to unload the carcass yourself by means of a dumping truck or trailer. County personnel are not allowed to assist with the offloading of any material by hand or with machinery.

Planning Ahead

There are some things we can do ahead of time to help make it safer for our cattle. One of these is fencing. Woven wire is the safest for livestock. It acts like volleyball net; in many cases falling trees don't even take it down. It doesn't pull apart in high winds. Animals are less likely to get caught or tangled in it.

Board fencing blows down and becomes debris. If you use it, back it with woven wire. Avoid using barbed wire. It cuts livestock to ribbons and is easily torn down by flying debris. Lay out your fence lines to keep animals away from power lines. Each year before hurricane season, replace rotten fence posts and make fencing repairs so your fences are as strong as possible. While you're at it, store up fencing supplies- extra wire, posts, staples, and gates. You know you're going to use them sometime anyway. These supplies were in short supply during the last hurricane season.

Secure or remove all items that could become air borne during high winds. If you can't remove these hazards tie them down with mobile home anchors or other devices. Secure trailers, propane tanks and other large objects. Boats, feed troughs and other large containers can be filled with water before a high-wind event. This will help prevent them from blowing around; however, additional anchors may be needed. If you depend on a well for water- have a standby generator or install a hand pump.

Be sure to store the gasoline in a safe location.

Make sure your insurance is adequate and up-to-date.

Photograph or video all property and store film in a secure location.

After the hurricane how will you roundup or check on your cattle? A pickup truck, four wheeler or horse? Whatever you plan to use make sure it is ready. My guess is only your horse will get you where you need to be immediately after the hurricane. These are just a few thoughts on cattle and hurricanes – make your preparations now. Like my grandfather always said "you don't have it done yet!"

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