In a fire, Fisher recommends assessing cattle for burns to their hooves and legs as secondary infections can cause lameness and result in euthanasia.

Connecting with the extension network allowed Fisher to learn from previous fires in Texas. Some cattle not in the wildfire area, but that were in the plume of smoke, were more aggressively marketed and monitored to avoid treatment for respiratory infections.

“It was difficult to stay connected, but every time I got to a computer I was able to get answers to questions,” he says. “I can’t say enough for the help the folks in Texas provided.”

Thanks to the advice from Texas, Fisher says he was able to recommend veterinarians watch for burned udders that could result in mastitis.

Similarly, professionals advised South Dakota cattlemen as the state recovered from losses after the blizzard. While South Dakota is experienced with winter storms, the state received advice from experts in Louisiana and Mississippi experienced in addressing large scale livestock losses from hurricanes.

“The immediate issues of the storm afterwards were the carcass clean up and some of the health risks that may or may not have been present,” Dr. Daly says. “We reached out to Louisiana and Mississippi, who have been through hurricanes. We have a good network of extension
veterinarians working in the same areas.”

Preparing a network of extension agents, state health officials and sister farms is the most important step towards disaster readiness, Dr. Huston says.

“The single most important thing livestock producers can do is communicate,” she recommends. “Knowing who the emergency managers are, who the extension agent is—make contact with them before an event so you know each other.”

A network that can be engaged during a disaster will help ensure lost or injured cattle are cared for appropriately. Dr. Huston notes that leaving the care of livestock up to untrained groups can result in animals being given unapproved medications or ineffective treatments.

Veterinarians can volunteer with their county to be a part of its emergency plan, which can include natural disasters or an isolated incident such as an overturned trailer.

“All disasters happen locally,” she says. “Every state is going to have some type of animal emergency plan. Veterinarians can be involved with their county and do large animal emergency response training where they work alongside their local firefighters and first responders.”