Farm Readiness

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Published 9th June 2006, 4:46pm

Ensuring the safety of livestock and produce throughout what may be another active hurricane season is a major concern for many people in the Cayman Islands.

To help prepare, the Department of Agriculture (DoA) is providing tips and preparation guidelines to assist those in the community with interest in these areas.

Livestock owners should be aware that adult livestock (cattle, goats and horses) have instincts that will enable them to survive a hurricane, provided that their movement is not physically restrained.

Move animals to high ground and turn them loose in pastures that are not affected by flooding or storm surge. This is particularly important for goats; the islands' goat population suffered the heaviest losses due to drowning during Hurricane Ivan.

Where possible, young livestock (two months old or less) should be securely penned with their mother, or otherwise turned loose in a safe and sheltered in an area that is not prone to flooding or storm surge.

Chickens and other domestic livestock should be placed in a safe cage, box or pen that is above possible flood level. Baby chicks, however, should be kept indoors in a warm dry place.

Adult pigs are best kept in their pens. Pig pens are never totally enclosed and therefore offer minimal resistance to high winds. However, piglets that are under five weeks old should be protected from any driving, cold rain. Where possible, piglets should be confined to a dry and secured area.

All livestock owners need to make plans now.

  • Stock up on feed; make sure it is stored in a safe, dry place for use after the hurricane.
  • Ensure you have an adequate supply of drinking water for the animals. Ponds, watering holes, and wells may become contaminated by salt water during a hurricane, and may remain so for a considerable period thereafter.
  • When a storm is approaching, fill feed and watering troughs with water to prevent them from blowing away and provide water after the storm.
  • Have on hand halters, leads, tape, ropes, tarps and plastic, fly spray and animal medical supplies.
  • Make sure all vaccinations and other routine medical treatments, such as de-worming, tick control, etc. are up-to-date and secure these records.
  • Network with fellow farmers and landowners to arrange a secure and safe place for your animals during a storm if you are in an area prone to flooding or storm surge.
  • Inspect fence posts to ensure they are properly anchored in the ground and not rotted. Loose fence posts can become dangerous projectiles during a hurricane.

Most animals and birds have an instinct for sensing the approach of a natural phenomenon such as a hurricane. If restrained, animals will exhibit a restless or nervous behaviour. Do not further agitate animals by rough handling, but rather handle in a calm, firm, and gentle manner. Do not tether animals; turn them out onto pastures that are not prone to flooding or storm surge and give them a chance to fend for themselves.

If possible, chose pastures with woven wire for fencing; it is more flexible and better at withstanding debris than board fencing and safer than barbed wire which can be torn down by flying debris, becoming an additional danger to nearby animals.

Regarding crops, fruit trees and shade trees should be pruned. Cut off all low- hanging, dead, and unproductive limbs and branches. The greater the resistance of a tree to high winds, the easier it is for that tree to be uprooted. The rainy season is the best time of the year for the pruning fruit trees.

Once a hurricane warning has been issued, farmers should chop down all banana and plantain plants (main stem and suckers) as near to ground level as possible. It is cheaper to lose a few bunches and farms will be back in production sooner than if the whole cultivation is uprooted by hurricane force winds.

Farmers should ensure that all fertilizers, pesticides and equipment are stored in a safe, secure and dry location. With the approach of a storm, if possible, remove and securely store irrigation lines, pumps and other equipment that might be damaged by the wind or flooding.

As with homes and businesses, it is always important to secure farm buildings during hurricane season. Secure loose boards and roofing sheets which can become dangerous missiles during a hurricane. Take down, tie down and secure everything you can and cut off dead limbs and/or trim trees back to safeguard property.

For more information on securing your farm and/or livestock, please contact the Department of Agriculture at 947-3090.