WEST MISSISSIPPI — As the Mississippi River continues to rise, those who keep cattle in Delta floodplains need to prepare to move them to higher ground.
Before evacuating, owners need to ensure their cattle are uniquely and permanently identified. Proper identification will be needed to prove ownership and to reclaim cattle before returning home.
“Hanging ear tags can be lost easily, and they are not unique enough to associate cattle with a particular owner quickly,” said Jane Parish, Mississippi State University Extension Service beef cattle specialist. “Hot iron or freeze brands and ear tattoos are preferable.”
Parish also advised owners to take photos or videos of their farm and animals before evacuating.
“The photos can be valuable during damage assessments and recovery efforts,” she said. “They can serve as useful records for insurance and disaster payment purposes.”
Next, cattle owners need to secure space to relocate their herds. Currently, the Mississippi Cattleman’s Association is helping producers find temporary grazing areas.
“We’ve received calls from volunteers willing to donate their pasture areas to our producers in the Delta,” said Sammy Blossom, the association’s executive vice president. “We are facilitating the exchange of information so cattle can be evacuated quickly.”
Local veterinarians and MSU Extension agents can help provide information on where producers can relocate their cattle. They also can provide information on how to transport them out of flood-prone areas safely.
“It is important to have adequate trailers in good repair to haul livestock,” Parish said. “Trailers need to have solid flooring, working lights and good tires, including spares. Also, be prepared to make several trips in order to move cattle safely out of evacuation areas.”
Parish advised cattle owners to move their animals to premises equipped with ramps and loading chutes so they can unload cattle properly. Cattle owners also should take plenty of feed, hay and veterinary supplies.
“Travel with vaccines and any necessary medications,” Parish said. “Bring health supplies to manage any injuries that may occur during transport.”
Ronnie White, head of emergency programs at the Mississippi Board of Animal Health, said cattle producers should ensure the pasture to which they move their animals has secure fencing and adequate catch pens.
“You want the cattle to be as secure as possible to minimize roaming,” White said. “The more research you do ahead of time, the easier recovery and returning to home pastures becomes.”
Parish said other precautions need to be taken when returning cattle to their original pastures after flood waters have receded.
“Because of the saturated soil, fencing may not be stable. Cattle producers should check and secure fencing before returning their herds,” she said. “It is also important to have plenty of fresh water available upon return.”
Parish advised producers to resume a herd health program as quickly as possible after returning to address disease or injury concerns. Consulting with a local veterinarian is the first step in getting cattle back on a proper health monitoring program.
Cattle owners can register their ranches with the Mississippi Board of Animal Health’s Animal Disease and Disaster Preparedness Program. Being a part of the program allows MBAH to check on producers before and after emergencies and help identify animals for recovery. It also provides a network of more than 8,000 producers who can help each other secure transportation and pasture space. For more information on the program, call (601) 359-1170. Call the Mississippi Animal Disaster Hotline at 1-888-722-3106 for more information on caring for animals during evacuations.