Large Animals and Livestock in Disasters

Two horses near a flooded barnyard 

​There are unique considerations for horses and other livestock during a disaster. Preparing ahead of time and acting quickly are the best ways to keep you and your animals—pets and livestock—out of danger. Protect your whole family when emergencies arise with the proper supplies, veterinary information, animal identification and an evacuation plan that has been practiced. Whether the threat is a hurricane, wildfire​ or other disaster, lives may depend on being ready.​

Planning for disasters​

  • Assemble an evacuation kit (see below).
  • Develop an evacuation plan for all of your animals and practice the plan.
  • Keep written directions to your home near your telephone. This will help you and others explain to emergency responders exactly how to get to your home.
  • Identify alternate sources of food and water. Because floodwaters are often contaminated with sewer waste and may also pose a risk of chemical contamination, animals should be prevented as much as possible from accessing and drinking them.
  • Have well maintained backup generators and a source of fuel for use in food-animal production operations.
  • Keep vehicles well maintained and full of gas.
  • Keep emergency cash on hand. (Remember: ATMs may not work.)
  • If evacuating is impossible, decide on the safest housing option for your animals, realizing that the situation is still life threatening.
  • Assess the stability and safety of barns and other structures, promptly remove dead trees, and minimize debris in fields and the immediate environment.
  • If you live in an area prone to wildfires, clear away brush and maintain a defensible space around structures.
  • Keep a list of the species, number and locations of your animals near your evacuation supplies and note animals’ favorite hiding spots. This will save precious rescue time.

Equine identification

  • microchip
  • tattoo
  • halter tag
  • neck collars
  • leg band
  • brand
  • mane clip
  • luggage tag braided into tail or mane
  • clipper-shaved information in the animal’s hair
  • livestock marking crayon, non-toxic, non-water-soluble spray paint, or non-water-soluble markers to write on the animal’s side
  • permanent marker to mark hooves

Livestock identification

  • neck chain
  • ear notches
  • leg band
  • ear tag
  • brand
  • livestock marking crayon, non-toxic, non-water-soluble spray paint, or markers to write on the animal’s side
  • wattle notching
  • ear tattoo
  • back or tail tag

Evacuating large animals

Equine and livestock evacuation can be challenging. Develop an evacuation plan in advance and make sure animals are familiar with being loaded onto a trailer. Locate and prearrange an evacuation site for your animals outside your immediate area. Possible sites include:

  • veterinary or land grant colleges
  • racetracks
  • show grounds
  • pastures
  • stables
  • fairgrounds
  • equestrian centers
  • livestock corrals
  • stockyards or auction facilities
  • other boarding facilities

If you do not have enough trailers to quickly transport all of your animals to an evacuation site, contact neighbors, local haulers, farmers, producers or other transportation providers to establish a network of available and reliable resources that can provide transportation in the event of a disaster.

If evacuation of horses/livestock is impossible, relocate them to the safest place possible based on the type of imminent disaster and the environment, realizing that the situation could be life threatening. Make sure they have access to hay or another appropriate and safe food source, as well as clean water and the safest living area possible, including high ground above flood level. Do not rely on automatic watering systems, because power may be lost.

The decision to leave your horses/livestock in the field or in the barn should be based on the risks of injury resulting from the disaster and from the immediate environment during that disaster. Factors to consider include the stability of the barn, the risk of flooding and the amount of trees and debris in the fields. If time permits, secure or remove all outdoor objects that could turn into dangerous flying debris.

Equine and livestock evacuation kit

  • 7-10 day supply of feed, supplements, and water
  • Bandanas (to use as blindfolds)
  • Batteries (flashlight, radio)
  • Blankets
  • Copies of veterinary records and proof of ownership
  • Cotton halter
  • Duct tape
  • Emergency contact list
  • First aid kit (see item suggestions in the Saving the Whole Family​ brochure)
  • Flashlight
  • Fly spray
  • Grooming brushes
  • Heavy gloves (leather)
  • Hoof knife
  • Hoof nippers
  • Hoof pick
  • Hoof rasp
  • Instructions
    • Diet: record the diet for your animals.
    • Medications: list each animal separately, and for each medication include the drug name, dose and frequency. Provide veterinary and pharmacy contact information for refills.
  • Knife (sharp, all-purpose)
  • Leg wraps and leg quilts
  • Maps of local area and alternate evacuation routes in addition to GPS (in case of road closures)
  • Non-nylon halters and leads (leather/cotton)
  • Nose leads
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic trash cans with lids (can be used to store water)
  • Portable livestock panels
  • Radio (solar, hand cranked and/or battery operated)
  • Rope or lariat
  • Shovel
  • Tarpaulins
  • Trash bags
  • Twitch
  • Water buckets
  • Whip/prods
  • Wire cutters

Evacuating backyard poultry

Be sure to include birds in your disaster plans. Plastic poultry transport crates/coops work well for transporting chickens if evacuation is necessary. Vehicle interiors should be warmed in winter or cooled in summer before transporting birds.

Transfer birds to more suitable housing as soon as possible to facilitate feeding and watering. Line crates or cages with shavings or other absorbent material for ease of cleaning. At the evacuation site, house birds away from noisy areas and other flocks, and protect them from the weather and predators.

Backyard poultry evacuation kit

  • Leg bands with an emergency telephone number and photos of birds can help you identify them if they escape or get lost.
  • Feed and water for 7 -10 days. Vitamin and electrolyte packs (stress packs) may help ease stress.
  • Sufficient feeders and waterers for the number of birds.
  • Detergent, disinfectant, gloves and other cleaning supplies for cleaning cages.
  • Feeders and drinkers.
  • Extra absorbent bedding material (newspapers can work temporarily) to line cages or temporary coops.
  • If evacuating chicks, consider their special needs (heat, food, equipment).
 

Additional contacts for equine and livestock owners