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Published 13th July 2017, 2:58pm

Hurricane Preparedness on the Farm


The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season forecast has been released and it is predicted that there is a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 30 percent change of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent change of a below normal season


NOAA issued its forecast at the end of May and called for:

  • Eleven to 17 named storms
  • Five to nine of which would become hurricanes.
  • Two to four of which would become major hurricanes


A major hurricane is one that is Category 3 or stronger on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.*


Having experienced hurricanes Ivan and Paloma, local farmers are keenly aware of the devastation that major hurricanes and even smaller tropical storms can wreak on their farms and livelihoods. However after several years of quiet hurricane seasons, complacency can begin to creep back into even the most experienced farmer’s annual preparations.  As such, the start of this year’s season is the appropriate time to remind farmers of preparation procedures that should be done when getting ready for an approaching storm to minimize crop and livestock losses.


The following hints are by no means exhaustive.  Some, such as the pruning of fruit trees and repairs to livestock pens etc., should be looked after NOW as a matter of routine maintenance and farm husbandry practices.  Remember the saying “A stitch in time saves nine”.


Fruit Trees— Cut off all low hanging, dead and unproductive limbs and branches.  Hurricane preparedness notwithstanding the rainy season is the best time of the year for the pruning fruit trees.  The greater the resistance of a tree to high winds, the easier it is for that tree to be uprooted.


Bananas and Plantains—With   the  issuance  of  a  HURRICANE WARNING, it is recommended that farmers chop down all bananas and plantain plants- main stem and suckers - as near to ground level as possible.  It is less costly to lose a few bunches and farms will be back in production sooner than if the whole cultivation is uprooted by hurricane force winds.


Adult Livestock—Adult livestock have inbred instincts that would enable them to survive a hurricane, provided that their movement is not physically restrained. Ideally, livestock should be turned loose in pastures that are not prone to flooding or swept by storm surges.


Young Livestock—Where possible, young stock two months or less should be securely penned with their mother, or otherwise turned loose in a safe and sheltered area that is not prone to flooding or storm surge.


Chickens—Chickens and other domestic livestock should be placed in a safe cage, box or pen that is above possible flood level. Baby chicks however should be kept indoors in a warm dry place.


Pigs—Adult pigs are best kept in their pens.  Pig pens are never totally enclosed and therefore are of minimal resistance to high winds.  Driving cold rain however could be a serious threat to piglets that are under five weeks old.  Where possible, piglets should be confined to a dry and secured area.


General—Most animals and birds have an inbred instinct for sensing the approach of a natural phenomenon such as a hurricane. If restrained, animals will exhibit a restless or nervous behavior.  Do not further agitate animals by rough handling, but rather, handling them in a calm, firm, and gentle manner. Ensure an adequate supply of clean drinking water, and stock up on sack feed for use after a hurricane.  Ponds, watering holes and pastures may become contaminated by salt water during a hurricane, and may remain so far a considerable period thereafter.


Farm Buildings—Secure loose boards and roofing sheets which can become dangerous missiles during a hurricane.  That extra nail, screw or bolt could mean the difference of a farm building receiving zero to minimal damage or total disintegration during a hurricane.


Pastures—Remove, store and/or secure feed and watering troughs i.e. half drums, bath tubs etc.  These can become dangerous missiles.  Where it is not possible to secure these, fill them with heavy rock to stop them blowing away. Inspect fence posts to ensure that they are properly anchored in the ground.  Loose fence posts can become dangerous projectiles during a hurricane.