Cattle ranchers prepare as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida this weekend.
Cattle ranchers prepare as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida this weekend.

Ranchers in Florida are no stranger to hurricane preparations, but each one brings it's own concerns. Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall this weekend.

“Most all ranchers are multi-generational and have been through hurricanes before, but each one is a reminder to be prepared,” says Jim Handley, executive vice president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association. “Those in rural areas are prepping generators, fuel and supplies.”

Florida reports more than 1.6 million cattle and calves in the state, and ranks 17th nationally for cattle production, according to USDA 2012 census numbers.

Ranchers expect less flooding issues than Texas ranchers experienced with Harvey (the sandy soil is less prone to long-term flooding than Texas clay-based soils, Handley says). But they are prepping fencing supplies, positioning tractors and equipment to areas that are less likely to flood and moving cattle to higher ground. “Cattle are resilient and know where to drift to,” Handley says. “Many ranchers will be tying fences open in order to give cattle and horses freedom to move to higher ground as they need.”

Handley says the state’s two largest livestock markets have canceled sales for next week until the storm passes.

Governor Rick Scott has declared an emergency in all 67 counties and the Florida Division of Emergency Management has raised the activation level to Level 1 – its highest level.

On Tuesday, Florida commissioner of agriculture Adam H. Putnam suspended intrastate movement requirements for transportation of animals from the expected impact area. Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi have also waived interstate import requirements for Florida livestock.

“By suspending the intrastate movement requirements for the transportation of animals, we can ensure that Floridians and visitors can quickly and safely move their pets and livestock out of harm’s way,” stated Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.

Hurricane Irma's Impact on Florida Cattle


Hurricane Irma is on target to hit much of eastern Florida, including several large cattle producing counties. Select a county to learn more about its herd size. (Christopher Walljasper/Farm Journal Media)

 

Livestock Shelters Open in Neighboring States

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) and other state groups coordinated four temporary sheltering facilities for evacuated livestock and horses.

“We stand ready to assist our neighbors in Florida, by providing a place for those who need shelter for their livestock,” says John McMillan, Alabama commissioner of agriculture and industries.

Animals moving in response to evacuation orders will be exempt from a certificate of veterinary inspection, but producers should be prepared to care for their animals while they are away. Please be sure to bring the following items with you:

·         Current list of all animals, including their records of feeding, vaccinations, and tests. Make sure that you have proof of ownership for all animals.

·         Supplies for temporary identification of your animals, such as plastic neckbands and permanent markers to label your animals with your name, address, and telephone number.

·         Handling equipment such as halters and appropriate tools for each kind of animal.

·         Water, feed, and buckets. Tools and supplies needed for sanitation.

Please contact the facility to confirm that space is available prior to your arrival.

The Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry is opening 350 stalls for horses being evacuated from Florida due to Hurricane Irma. The stalls are available on a first come, first serve basis, starting Thursday at 8 a.m. http://wgxa.tv/news/local/georgia-national-fairgrounds-to-open-horse-she...

 

Available shelters in Alabama include:

Covington Center Arena

24000 AL-55

Andalusia, AL 36420

Contact: Bo Fuqua

334-504-2717

http://www.mcdiamond.com/gifts/steelcutout/al/cov/coving.htm

 

Garrett Coliseum

1555 Federal Dr

Montgomery, AL 36107

Contact: Randy Stephenson

334-356-6866

www.thegarrettcoliseum.com

 

Houston County Farm Center

1701 E Cottonwood Rd

Dothan, AL 36301

Contact: Mickey Sego

334-792-5730

http://www.houstoncounty.org/Farm-Center

 

5 County Complex

1055 E Mckinnon St

New Brockton, AL 36351

Contact: Gavin Mauldin

334-894-5596

 

For question or concerns about sheltering livestock during hurricane evacuation, contact ADAI Emergency Programs at 334-240-7278 or email ben.mullins@agi.alabama.gov.