Tip of the Month
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With Winter fast approaching, it might behoove us to think about emergency preparedness. Actually, it is well to be prepared for all manner of emergencies. After all, bad things do happen to good people. And anything that might impact us will most certainly impact our livestock. Things that spring to mind are snow and or ice storms. These can knock out power for anywhere between a few hours to a couple weeks. Depending on where you live, you might consider other types of storms - tornadoes, hurricanes, exceedingly heavy rainstorms, even earthquakes. Of course, there are emergencies associated with health, such as strokes, heart attacks, etc. God forbid - you could have a car accident that leaves you unable to do your daily chores - or worse. One incident from my own experience involved my possibly exposing myself to an intense x-ray beam from a diffractometer used in my occupation as analytical chemist. The first thing that popped into my mind (as the health officials were measuring exposure levels) was that I could not lift hay bales with only one hand. That really scared the heck out of me. So the first thing you should probably do is evaluate the types of emergencies that you might conceivably encounter. Then you should make a few contingency plans. I might add that these preparations should be useful whether or not you actually encounter an emergency. So prepare for the worst, and be grateful when you receive something better. And in the meantime, rest more easily.
These are but a few of the things you might want to consider when you prepare for emergencies. I'm sure there are a bunch I haven't thought of, so if you have some ideas I've missed, drop me an e-mail. I'm always open for improving my emergency response capabilities.
- Train someone to care for your animals, in case something should happen to prevent you from doing your regular chores. This includes lining up someone to inherit your beloved animals should you die. You want to have someone who would come get your cherubs, feed them, water them, and love them if you were no longer around to do so.
- Plan ahead for safety. For example, use fencing as a first line of defence against predators. Get yourself a livestock guardian dog as a second line of defence. Have these security systems in place BEFORE you have an attack. I was once told by a trapper that a coyote could clear my 5 foot fences whilst carrying a kid. And packs of domestic dogs can devastate your herd in short order. Preventive measures are a lot easier and cheaper in the long run!!
- Prepare an evacuation plan. If a tornado were to hit, where could you stash the goats, for example. This last Spring, I had to grab up my babies and stash them in a dog kennel in the basement. I didn't have time to rescue the adults. Fortunately, I didn't have to, as the tornado did not touch down. If I'd had time, the does would have gone to the basement, also, along with the dogs. The bucks would have been on their own. These are hard choices, but you want to think about them beforehand. I have a small herd, and could get all the does and babies into the bed of the pickup if I had to flee the farm. Granted, my cherubs wouldn't have wads of room, but they would be alive. And I have friends where I could leave the aniamls should the need arise. An example could be if the barn were to burn down from a forest or electrical fire. You have to have time to rebuild the animal facilities after one of these devastating incidents. So you have to have somewhere to house the animals during construction. And by all means, have an evacuation plan for getting your animals out of a burning building.
- Practice fire safety. Prevention is far less traumatic than rebuilding. Have a licensed electrician check all your wiring in both your house and barn. Make certain that the goats can not reach and/or chew on the wiring. Occasionally check the wires yourself, to ensure that none has become frayed. Be careful when using a heat lamp. Don't have open flames (e.g. cigarettes) in the barn. Keep flammables away from sources of ignition. Be careful in your use of electric fencing. Fences can short out on weeds and start a fire, as can lightning running in on the fence wires. At the very least, undo the fencer from the power during a severe thunderstorm. As a matter of fact, its not a bad idea to unplug all your appliances during a thunderstorm. I once lost a TV to lightning. The lightning followed the antenna into the house and literally fried the inside of the TV. I was lucky there was no fire.
- Do a periodic safety check around the farm. Look for sources of accidents. For example, is there a nail that is loose and could hook an ear - or worse yet, an udder? Is there some nuisance (or poisonous) plant about to get a foothold in your fields? Could the goats get caught in a hole in the fence? Could they burrow out under the fence where the rain has washed out the ground? These are but a few things to consider. If you see a hazard, fix it immediately. I had an incident where I saw one of my prize cherubs reaching for a few walnut leaves. If she had reached a little too far or slipped, she could have fallen down a dangerous incline. You can surely bet that I was out lopping off those walnut limbs so that the temptation was no longer there.
- Have enough feed on hand to get you through a severe storm. Maybe you can't get out through the snow. Or perhaps the Coop can't get the chow delivered when you need it. Some years back, the establishment that mixed our grain blew up - as in gigantic explosion. Believe it or not, some of the worst industrial accidents in US history have been explosions in grain elevators. Needless to say, we did not have our usual delivery of grain after the explosion. However, we had enough on hand to allow us to locate a new source of feed before we had a problem.
- Have a backup supply of water. For those of us on wells, a loss of power means NO WATER. The animals MUST HAVE WATER. Our solution was to have a city-water spigot installed. We only use it during emergencies, but this water supply does not dry up during a power failure. We also keep spare 5-gal water buckets around. These are filled with emergency supplies of water. And the bathtub can be filled, also, if you perceive a weather threat. Even if the animals don't need it, you'll be grateful for the opportunity to flush your indoor pottie.
- Keep all your basic chores up-to-date. Make certain that everyones hooves are trimmed and that everyone is wormed, for example.Then if there were to be an emergency, you wouldn't be struggling to just catch up on the basics - you could concentrate on the emergency itself, and the problems it has caused.
- Have an emergency stash of goodies easily available. We keep a weather radio with fresh batteries available. We also have a Coleman cook stove with propane fuel in case we have to cook without electrical power. And we have an outdoor grill that can be pressed into cooking detail. We keep dried beans, rice, canned goods, and other stored foods. And don't forget the paper goods - paper towels, pottie paper, tissues. Other useful things to keep on hand are tarps for covering valuable items (such as hay) that might be suddenly exposed to the elements - say if a tornado nailed part of your barn roof. You'll want to keep extra batteries on hand, as well as spare flashlight bulbs. A couple years ago, we had a fellow goat keeper call from Chattanooga. They needed batteries and could not find any in their area because of a very bad and prolonged storm. We sent the batteries. The point to this is that you need to have the suckers on hand BEFORE the emergency. You might not be able to find supplies after an emergency
- . And you'll need to have a full compliment of animal medicines on hand. We've covered this in earlier "Tips", so there is no need to relist the medicines here.