Management of Livestock in an event of a Disaster

Management of Livestock in an event of a Disaster

Saroj Rai, Rani Alex, M.Karunakaran, A.Mandal, Mk.Ghosh, TK. Dutta and R.Behera

Any emergency situation warrants extraordinary response in an area. This emergency arises due to a disaster which maybe natural or man-made. Though natural disaster accounts for 80% in the world, India experiences all types of natural disaster, except volcanic activity (Ganguli et al., 1993). The frequency of droughts, floods, earthquakes and cyclones are increasing every year. The northern mountain regions are prone to snow storms, the gangetic plains to floods, the deccan plateau to drought, erratic rainfall and earthquakes of varying intensity; the western desert to limited unreliable rainfall and drought and the coastal areas to sea erosion, cyclones, and tidal waves (Unnikrishnan and Malavika, 1998). Manmade disaster may not harm the animal directly but may threaten in situation like bomb explosion, pollution, industrialization or destruction of the natural habitat. Disasters are not the same as the impact and consequences vary from region to region and from community to community. During disaster, people lose their property and livelihood which take time to recoup. Any form of disaster impacts the weaker sections of the community especially in developing countries as their dependence on animals for livelihood are huge. India has 70% of the livestock owned by 67% of small and marginal farmers and by the landless labours. Though animal stand better chance of survival in an event of a disaster, very less effort have been made in this direction. Likewise, the problem is even grave when animals do not figure anywhere in preparedness, mitigation or rehabilitation. Also, the loss of animals is not being projected accurately. Some of the well accounted disasters are-

Drought- Drought is a condition where there is shortage of precipitation for a sufficient longer period of time. The waters in rivers, streams and underground maybe lower than average causing hydrological imbalance. Drought results in shortage of feeds and fodders and the animal may remain in stress hence reducing their productivity.

Management during Drought-

  • Early warnings help better preparations for drought mitigation strategies
  • Early plans should involve veterinary health care institutions, water resources and disaster assistance to expand their services in times of need
  • Provision for additional water supply in times of water shortages through repair of tube wells, cleaning of tanks, preparing for harvesting rainwater in tanks or large ponds. If not, most sources of the water which may be unclean by human standards may be utilized.
  • Explore the use of conventional feed and fodder resources and encourage supply of molasses to cattle feed plants. Dry fodder reserves, urea molasses licks, bricks made of fodder urea and molasses etc. can be part of the stock pile.
  • Implementing measures to stabilize fodder resources by using seed reserves and planting alternative drought resistant fodder crops
  • Prevention of disease outbreak through better health management protocol

Earthquakes - Earthquake can cause damage to buildings, infrastructures, bridges, dams, roads and railways. Beside the scarcity of feed and fodders, contamination of water through seepage of drainage water produces great discomfort to the people and animals. Since in Indian scenario, the animals are mostly tied outside or kept in thatched sheds where chances of physical injuries are low. But when the animals are tied or caged their chances of escape is reduced.

Management during an Earthquake-

  •  Identify the safest place for shelter so that the animals can survive for 2-3 days   without any assistance
  •  Vaccinate the animals against tetanus or against most prevailing infectious disease
  • All the farm tool and equipments and other objects that are heavy should be placed away from the wall and in rafters as they are likely to fall causing serious injury
  • Persons taking care of the animals who are indoors should take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture and should stay away from objects that shatter like windows etc.
  • A bolt cutter should be present in order to open gates during emergency
  • Seek for veterinary and medical advice in case of emergency

Flood - Floods are one of the most common natural disasters causing extensive damage to property, livestock, crops and human life. But animals are natural swimmers; therefore can escape drowning if they are not tied or caged. In an event of flood, the environment, drinking water and rivers become contaminated. The fear of outbreak of infectious diseases like tetanus, dysentery, hepatitis and food poisoning etc. becomes prominent with poor management.

Management during flood-

  • Evacuate the animals rapidly to higher ground and check for injuries to be attended by a veterinarian
  • Prevent the outflow of manure pits into rivers or even drinking water
  • All local ponds and canals should be inspected for any obstruction
  • Ensure that the animals are vaccinated for all infectious diseases
  • The animals should be brought to safer places if the forecast of a disaster is beforehand. In flooded areas where drainage is slow, can be used for duck rearing and fish farming

Cyclones– Meteorologically, cyclone can be predicted with some accuracy. Hence the loss can be avoided through better preparedness of an event.

Management during flood-

  • Cyclone shelters can be made to house animals away from the cyclonic area
  • Animals should be shifter to higher grounds
  • Stocking of concentrates and medicines
  • Vaccination of animals
  • Make provisions for early disposal of carcasses

Man Made Disasters - Among the Manmade disasters are hazardous when accidents with radiation occur.  This hazardous material may contaminate the environment and hence human food supply. Animals should be well protected from the source of radioactivity by evacuating them. A barrier between animals and radioactive sources can be used if needed eg. lead, iron, concrete or water etc. the community must be made aware of the dangers of radiation. Based on the clinical signs and symptoms, prompt treatment must be provided to persons. Consult a veterinarian in case of doubt. Water source should be covered temporarily with plastic sheets to avoid contamination.

Fire – The incidence of fire in farms are much likely in household with thatch roof. Smoking in sheds to ward off pests and the proximity to straws can lead to accidental outbreak of fire. Animals that have been tied indoors are at more risk than the ones that are outdoors. The farm should take precaution and keep fire extinguishers in each animal house.

Managemental Strategies during a disaster

  1. Evacuation is the best measure to prevent the animal from further suffering. Evacuation should be quick and rapid to rescue camps. Both destination and transport of animals while relocation should be coordinated in a way to preserve the health and welfare of animals.
  2. Provision of a shelter depends upon the type of a disaster. For example, during cyclones the animals are safer outside than those sheltered. There is fear of inundation of water in sheds/houses during a flood. But during winters, heaters are located in areas with proper ventilation.
  3. Feeding and watering of animals should be adequate such that it meets up the nutritional needs and well reduces illness. Availability of feeds and fodder during this time is very critical as there is a huge gap between the demand and supply. Promotion of fodder cultivation, seed distribution, utilization of non conventional feed sources such as urea, molasses, feed blocks, silage feeding must be done. 
  4. All animals rescued should be identified with some numbering, Data on total animal population and total animal rescued highlights the animal lost during a disaster
  5. All injured animals should be promptly treated and antibiotics can be provided in case of susceptible illness. The animal health component includes appropriate nutrition, care of pregnant animals, care of new-born and young animal etc.
  6. There is always a fear of disease spread in the herd. The risk can be avoided through mass vaccination programme of diseases like FMD, Haemorrhagic septicaemia, Anthrax, PPR, E. Coli etc. Some precaution on pest control along with proper hygiene and sanitation maybe followed
  7. Many animals are likely to die in a disaster where disposal of dead animals becomes a problem. The problem is more acute during flood and cyclones. Never throw the body of dead animal in rivers and streams. The carcass should be burned or buried as per the protocol. Carcass utilization is one method where intermediate products like Meat meal, Bone Meal, calcium etc. can be produced as essential feed supplements. The technologies involve dry and wet rendering as cooking, sterilization, fat removal, drying and finally milling and bagging.
  8. Another issue is the animal waste disposal. Dung of animals can be either used as manure or caked and dried for fuel. Where possible small manure gas units can be organised. Improper disposal leads to pest problems. Manure pits can be made by digging the earth and layered with lime regularly. During prolonged stagnation of flood water, duck rearing and fish farming can be considered as the means of pest control.
  9. Veterinary doctors, Para veterinary staff and ancillary staff should help to set up temporary rescue camps in affected areas to reach to the sick, dying and injured animals. Control rooms are set up to exchange and co-ordinate veterinary support. Control rooms keep link with and co-ordinate supplies such as pain killer, sedatives, antibiotics, fracture equipments etc. from agencies.
  10. Many Goushalas in the country help in providing shelter to many sick,   uncared and old animals. They also play a major role in conserving the animal genetic resource of the country.

In order to educate the people of any unwarranted disaster, preparedness with mitigation strategies is the best method followed. Every state should involve them in forming a disaster management group through Animal Husbandry and Veterinary service department. The required field staff should be kept in constant readiness especially throughout the vulnerable months of the year. During lean period, the team should undertake preparedness and relief exercise to test their efficacy and preparedness. This will help develop a well coordinated working system.


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