Farm animals are vulnerable to natural disasters such as extreme heat and cold weather, and
emergencies such as hazardous materials spills. In the event of an emergency, animals may need
to be sheltered, cared for, or transported to safety. Plan ahead by speaking with your veterinarian
and contact the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association at: www.canadianveterinarians.net for
Know Your Risks
Understand the likely disaster risks in your community and region. Identify the hazards to help
you prepare and to reduce the impact when sudden events do occur. The types of hazards vary
depending on where you live, but can include:
- flooding from nearby rivers, canals and lakes,
- grassland, forest, and farm building fires,
- severe storms, high wind, tornadoes, heavy rain and blizzards,
- hazardous waste spills and dangerous goods exposures, and
- diseases or pests that affect animals and crops.
Having plans for sheltering in place, and evacuating with and without the farm animals will help
you to act quickly, protect your animals, and reduce the stress of the emergency or disaster. In
each case, make sure that you have adequate and safe fencing or pens to separate and group
- Make an emergency plan to protect your property, facilities, and animals. Create a contact list
of emergency telephone numbers, including your employees, neighbours, veterinarian, poison
control, local animal shelter, animal care and control, transportation resources, and local
- Include an out-of-town contact person who is unlikely to be affected by the same emergency.
Make sure all this information is written down, and that everyone on your farm and your contact
person has a copy.
- Review, test, and update your emergency plans, supplies, and information regularly.
Sheltering In Place
If you remain on your property during an emergency, depending on the type of event and time
constraints, you need to decide whether to confine animals in a shelter or leave them outdoors.
Confining too many and different types of animals to one shelter increases the risk of aggressive
behaviour and outbreak of contagious diseases.
Survey your property for the best locations. Ensure that the animals have access to sufficient food
and clean water, access to higher areas in flood events, and access to low lying areas in case of
high winds. Livestock may be safer in a pasture instead of evacuating them. 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, and
- enough open space so livestock have unrestricted movement to avoid blowing debris.
Ensure you have enough food and essential supplies for you and your family for at least three
days. If your property does not meet these criteria, you may need to evacuate the animals on the
advice of your veterinarian or local emergency management officials.
Evacuation With Animals
There may be situations where an evacuation is sudden. To quickly evacuate animals you need
to have the right equipment such as chutes and portable ramps prepared as soon as possible.
Make sure your family and employees are familiar with at least two evacuation routes. Contact
your Community Emergency Management Coordinator through your local municipality. For
general information contact Emergency Management Ontario.
- Ensure that the electricity on the farm is turned off.
- Arrange in advance for a place to shelter your animals. Plan ahead and work within your
community to establish safe shelters for farm animals, such as fairgrounds, other farms,
racetracks, and exhibition centers.
- Ensure that sufficient feed, water and medical supplies are available at the destination. You
are responsible for the welfare of your farm animals.
- Be ready to leave as soon as an evacuation is ordered. During the emergency roads may be
restricted to emergency service vehicles and closed to other traffic.
- Set up safe transportation. You will need access to trucks, trailers, portable loading ramps,
and other vehicles suitable for transporting each type of animal, along with experienced
handlers and drivers.
- If animals are evacuated to a centralized location such as a fairground for shelter and will comingle
with other animals of unknown health status, try to:
- make sure your animals have identification (e.g. ear tags or brands), or use a permanent
marker to put your phone number or unique mark on their bodies,
- minimize the contact among animals from different premises,
- protect feed and water from contact with wildlife, and verify the health and vaccination
status of any animals which must be co-mingled,
- handle any mortalities in a manner to minimize the spread of contagious diseases,
- monitor the health and well being of the animals on a daily basis, whether sheltered in
place or evacuated,
- seek appropriate veterinary medical advice and services on suspicion of an animal
disease problem, and
- provide a generator with a safely stored supply of fuel, especially if you have milking
equipment or other electrical equipment necessary to the well being of your animals.
- make sure your animals have identification (e.g. ear tags or brands), or use a permanent
Evacuation Without Animals
- Leave at least three days worth of feed and water that does not require power.
- Open gates or reroute fencing to create a large area for unrestricted movement.
- Close barn doors to prevent animals from going back inside where they can be trapped.
- Connect with your emergency contacts about care and feeding for the animals.
- Have readily available handling equipment for first responders to free any trapped animals.
Supplies and Emergency Kits
Make an emergency kit according to your needs, store emergency supplies in one location, and
let everyone know where it is. Check and update contents regularly. The Emergency Kit should
- A current list of all animals, including their location and records of feeding, vaccinations, and
tests. Make this information available at various locations on the farm.
- Supplies for temporary identification of your animals, such as plastic neckbands and
permanent markers to label animals with your name and telephone number.
- Basic first aid supplies/kit.
- Handling equipment such as halters, cages, blankets, and bolt-cutters to quickly free animals
in an emergency.
- Water, feed, buckets, tools and supplies needed for sanitation.
- Safety and emergency items for your vehicles and trailers.
- Cell phones, flashlights, portable radios (with a weather radio band) or Weatheradio, and
batteries. Know the radio broadcast frequencies and local weather information telephone
- Emergency supplies for your family, including water – drinking, cooking and hygiene, nonperishable
food, documents, identification, cash, personal supplies and medication
Early Farm Preparation
- Make sure every animal has durable and visible identification and create a file with all animal
identification and ownership records.
- Reinforce your house, barn, and outbuildings with hurricane straps and other measures.
Perform regular safety inspections on all utilities, buildings, and facilities on your farm.
- If possible, remove barbed wire and consider re-routing permanent fencing, so that animals
may move to high ground in a flood and to low-lying areas during high winds.
- Install a hand pump with enough large containers to water your animals for at least a week.
Municipal water supplies and wells may be contaminated during an emergency.
- Check water wells to see that they are secure from flood water contamination.
- Secure or remove anything that could become blowing debris; including trailers, propane
tanks, and other large objects. If you have feed troughs or other large containers, fill them with
water before any high wind event.
- Chemicals should be stored in secured areas, preferably on high ground, shelved off the
ground, and protected so that chemical spills will not result in any runoff or seepage.
- Label hazardous materials and place them all in the same safe area. Provide local fire, rescue
and emergency services with the location and a list of hazardous materials.
- Post a property map in each building, showing key services (power and water), access points,
all building and equipment locations, and dangerous chemical storage.
- Post an emergency contact list in each building. Include neighbours, animal
handlers/transporters, veterinarians and feed suppliers.
- Store all records (animal ID, contact lists and site map) onsite, offsite and digitally.
- Set up meeting places in case an evacuation is ordered, with feed, water and shelter for any
evacuated animals. Make sure everyone knows where to meet and consider the weather.
- Create safe transportation methods. If possible, practice loading and transporting animals.
Recovery Assistance and Financial Preparedness
Recovering from a disaster is difficult. A conditional grant program can provide financial
assistance after emergencies and disasters that cause uninsurable loss and damage. Speak to
an insurance agent about your specific needs. Know your insurance policy. Make sure your home,
vehicle, business and belongings are protected.
If possible, set up an emergency savings account to cover temporary expenses while you are out
of your home. If you can, keep emergency cash handy in case banking services are unavailable.
If you are evacuated, keep all receipts for additional expenses.
Fire Considerations for Animal Housing
- Use professionals for all wiring and electrical modifications to barns, livestock housing
structures and shops.
- Prohibit smoking in and around barns.
- Store combustibles such as hay, shavings, manure, gas, oil, propane, paint, cutting torches
away from the barn.
- Minimize the number of heat and electrical appliances in the barn that risk sparking or causing
- Grain dust will ignite and explode. Do not try to auger grains during a fire.
- Map the location of fire extinguishers, and mark with signage. Extinguishers should be located
in all barns, shops, and structures. All staff and family members need to know fire extinguisher
locations and how to use them.
- A structure can be completely engulfed in less than six minutes.
- Panicked animals do not fear fire and will not leave a barn on their own.
- Most animals are killed from smoke inhalation and those who do survive rarely recover.
- Never put personal safety in jeopardy to save an animal.
Wildfires spread across forests, grasslands, and fields very quickly. Farms near dense forests,
wildlands and grasslands areas should be prepared for wildfires and know the steps to minimize
risks and losses. There are several proactive measures that can be completed in advance to
prepare producers for a wildfire emergency including:
- Have contact information for prearranged off-farm animal holding areas.
- Review wildfire history in your region.
- Identify and maintain equipment that may help fight an approaching grassfire or wildfire (e.g.,
disk, harrow, tractor, water truck).
- Reduce vegetation and wood debris within 10 to 30 meters of farm structures.
- Create firebreaks by clearing vegetation and expose bare soil to help slow wildfire spread.
- Predetermine evacuation sites and routes that may be used for animal movement and have
a map of the identified areas readily available for all staff, family and first responders.
- Store hay, straw, beddings/shaving outside the barn in a dry, covered area, if possible.
- Have water and feed readily available or at the pre-arranged lairage site(s) to ensure that all
affected livestock have sufficient feed and water.
- Create a detailed inventory of livestock and a list of emergency contacts prior to any wildfire.
- In wildfire susceptible areas, install irrigation/ sprinkler system to help suppress fire.
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Emergency Management Program
Emergency management in the Ontario Public Service includes five components: mitigation,
prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. OMAFRA has developed the Emergency
Management Program (EMP) Plan that addresses both agricultural emergencies and continuity
of operations. The plan combines the Food and Agriculture Emergency Response Plan (FAERP)
and Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP).
OMAFRA has responsibility for emergencies related to: farm animal disease, agricultural plant
disease and pest infestation and food contamination.
OMAFRA maintains a number of supplement plans under EMP including; Human Health
Pandemic, Nuclear Incident, Border Closure, Foreign Animal Disease and Food Contamination.
OMAFRA have a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week notification protocol to ensure prompt
notification and response to any agricultural emergency or business continuity incident, by the
Ministry Incident Management Team (MIMT).
The Ministry Emergency Operations Centre (MEOC) provides an integrated environment of
information management and communication tools required to respond to emergencies in a time
when speed and efficiency are critical.