Friday, May 8, 2009

Use Caution: Receding Flood Waters Pose Hazards to Producers and Livestock

By David Burton
University Extension

When flood waters begin to recede, producers must continue to use caution when assessing damage and beginning clean-up procedures on the farm.

According to Amanda Marney, agriculture preparedness specialist with University of Missouri Extension, livestock will be exposed to unique hazards created by flood waters.

In addition, agriculture producers must also protect their own health when working in and cleaning up previously flooded areas.


“It is very important that you make sure all animals have a source of clean, uncontaminated water. Animals on pasture may need a different source of water until ponds or creeks clear up,” said Marney.

She says it is also imperative that agriculture producers have their water tested if any part of the farmyard is flooded.

“If using well water for livestock water, be aware that it may have also have been contaminated and the well may need to be disinfected,” said Marney.

Check all sources of feeds and forages for spoiling and contamination. Flood waters can contaminate feeds, forages and fields. Watch for molds in the field and in stored feed and forages. Feeding of moldy feeds is risky and unhealthy for all animals.

Standing water may have damaged some pastures or parts of pastures. This may have isolated animals and limited forage supply.

“Hungry animals may then eat contaminated or poisonous plants. Therefore, be prepared to supplement feed, when needed, in order to prevent animals from eating contaminated plant materials,” said Marney.

It is a good practice to make sure all animals are up to date with vaccinations. Agriculture producers may need to administer Blackleg boosters to pastured animals. High-risk, younger animals that were on flooded pastures may benefit from a therapeutic dose of penicillin.

“Animals have been stressed during thunderstorms and resulting flooding. Consider supplementing additional feed or vitamins. Watch closely for signs of illness such as pneumonia and lameness. Make sure all animals are accounted for and are eating,” said Marney.

Is there manure storage on the farm? If so, consider having Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) check for any evidence of weakening or leaking.


Agriculture producers should be extremely wary of electrical equipment that has been exposed to flood water or other moisture.

“Don’t turn the power back on until it has been inspected by a qualified electrician. If you are not certain that the power is off, then never enter flooded areas or touch electrical equipment if the ground is wet,” said Marney.

Flood cleanup may involve the use of gasoline or diesel powered pumps, generators, and pressure washers. It is important to realize these devices do release carbon monoxide, a deadly, colorless, odorless gas. Due to this fact, Marney says producers should operate all these devices outdoors.

“Never operate the power unit indoors. It is virtually impossible to ensure adequate ventilation,” said Marney.

Farm tractor and equipment operators should be extremely cautious when using towing chains to free or move "stuck" equipment. Hitch only to the drawbar to avoid tipping the tractor over backwards.

Use only a long towing chain designed to support the towed load. Check the machine's operator's manual for additional safe towing information.

For more information, contact Marney at the Univesity of Missouri Southwest Research Center or at (417) 461-1319.

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