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Livestock Emergency Preparedness

Preparing Your Livestock for Natural Disasters 

Alberta has experienced its share of natural disasters and emergencies over the past few years. From severe storms and blizzards to tornadoes, wildfires and flooding, hundreds of people and their livestock have been affected. We often have a plan for taking care of our families in case a natural emergency displaces us, but do you have a Livestock Emergency Response Plan to keep your livestock safe? 

We’ve put together important information to help you create a Livestock Emergency Response Plan so you and your livestock are prepared in case a natural disaster hits your farm, ranch or operation.  

How to Create a Livestock Emergency Response Plan

Here is a checklist that you can use to prepare your livestock for natural disasters:
  • Build a map. Outline the buildings on your property and include key services (power and water sources), access points, equipment locations, and dangerous chemical storage. Post your map in each building.
  • Set a meeting place or muster point in case an evacuation is ordered. Make sure everyone knows the locations and ensure that there is feed, water and shelter for any animals you can evacuate. Consider seasonal weather impacts.
  • Create safe transportation methods. If possible, practice loading and transporting your animals.
  • Ensure animals are visually identified (for example, ear tags, tattoos) whenever possible. Create a file with all animal identification and ownership records.
  • Create an emergency response contact list. Include neighbours, animal handlers/transporters, veterinarians and feed suppliers. Post in each building.
  • Store all records (animal ID, contact lists and site map) onsite, offsite and digitally.
  • Work with your local Director of Emergency Management to learn what type of help will be available.

Alberta Agriculture's Traceability Program

Register your livestock with Alberta Agriculture’s Traceability program and you’ll help local authorities provide better protection for your animals during an emergency. Premises ID Is mandatory under the Health of Animals Act in Alberta. Register online at:

Options for Sheltering Your Animals

Option 1. Plan to Shelter in a Safe Place on your Property

If you remain on your property during an emergency, you will need to decide whether to confine livestock in an available shelter or leave them outdoors. Survey your property for the best location for animal sheltering. Ensure that your animals have access to high areas in case of flooding, as well as to food and clean water.

If your pasture area meets the following criteria, your livestock may be better off out in the pasture than being evacuated. A safe pasture has:

  • Native tree species only. Exotic trees uproot easily.
  • No overhead power lines or poles.
  • No debris or sources of blowing debris.
  • No barbed wire fencing. Woven wire fencing is best.
  • At least one acre (0.4 hectares) of open space. Livestock may not be able to avoid blowing debris in smaller spaces.  

Ensure that you have enough food and essential supplies for you and your family for at least 72 hours (three days).

If your property does not meet these criteria, consider evacuating your animals, but only on the advice of your veterinarian or local emergency management officials.

Option 2. Evacuation Plans for Sheltering off your Premisesl

Contact your local emergency management authority and become familiar with at least two possible evacuation routes. Familiarize all family members and employees with your evacuation plans.

Plan ahead and work within your community to establish safe shelters for farm animals, such as fairgrounds, other farms, racetracks, and exhibition centres.

Ensure that sufficient feed and medical supplies are available at the destination.

Be ready to leave as soon as an evacuation is ordered. In a slowly evolving emergency, plan to evacuate at least 72 hours before anticipated landfall, especially if you will be hauling a high profile trailer such as a horse trailer. It may not be possible to evacuate heavy loads safely in high winds. Also, once the emergency is in full force, roads may be restricted to emergency service vehicles and not open to traffic.

Set up safe transportation. You will need to have access to trucks, trailers, and other  vehicles suitable for transporting each type of animal, along with experienced handlers and drivers. You may need access to a portable loading ramp to load, or unload, animals.

Create a Livestock Emergency Response Kit

Emergencies and disasters can last a few hours, or a few days. It is a good idea to keep enough supplies on hand to last a minimum of 14 days. Store your supplies together in an easy to access place.

Your Livestock Emergency Response Kit should include: 

Household Emergency Supplies: 

  • Water for drinking, cooking and hygiene
  • Food (non-perishable with high protein)
  • Battery-powered or crank radio and flashlight
  • Generator- have an emergency portable generator available with appropriate fuel 
  • Documents, identification and cash
  • Personal supplies and medication

Animal Emergency Supplies:

  • Animal feed and water that does not require power
  • First aid kit and suppliments
  • List of medications, veterinarian records, animal identification, health and sale records and proof of ownership
  • Handling equipment, for example: ropes, cages, halters, warm bedding and fence cutters

Livestock disaster preparedness: What to do during an Emergency

Stay informed, watch TV, listen to the radio or check municipal internet sites for up to date information. Follow instructions of emergency personnel if ordered to evacuate or shelter in place. If you must leave your livestock behind, leave a sign on the door to your home and in your barn(s) for emergency responders that indicate what animals are inside. Consider placing “Livestock Inside” stickers on your windows for emergency responders. If you evacuate your livestock, you should write “Livestock is Evacuated” on the stickers and include the date, and your contact information including a cell phone number.

In Closing   

It’s important to create a Livestock Emergency Preparedness Plan. Be adaptable and prepared to adjust your plans based on the circumstances. There is valuable information available through provincial, federal and global websites including the the Government of Canada Get Prepared website. Each resource offers tips and helpful information that will help you create a Livestock Emergency Preparedness Plan customized for your farm, ranch or operation.  By taking the time to and investing in a livestock disaster preparedness plan, you can be ready for the unexpected and keep your livestock safe.

Additional Resources:

Farm animals and livestock preparedness |

Structure Fire and Wildfire – Animal Health Emergency Management (AHEM) project

Livestock Emergency Preparedness - Wheatland County

Emergency Preparedness for Farm Animals

Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards - Download LEGS Handbooks

Emergency Preparedness | Alberta SPCA