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Make Farm Preparations Now

With the threat of the approach of tropical storm Paloma and the likelihood of its intensification to hurricane strength before it reaches the Cayman Islands, the Director of Agriculture (DoA) Mr. Adrian Estwick is reminding farmers and pet owners to ensure that all necessary precautions are in place to protect their farms, livestock and pets.

"All farmers need to make their preparations now, following the guidelines recommended by the Department of Agriculture" stated Mr. Estwick. "In particular I would like to emphasize to livestock owners to make arrangements to purchase their feed supplies as soon as possible, particularly during this hurricane watch phase. Although the Department of Agriculture will remain open as long as possible to service their clients, it is difficult to predict when the department will be forced to close as the situation changes."

To help prepare, the Department of Agriculture is again providing the following tips and preparation guidelines as a reminder to members of the farming community to assist with their preparation activities.

Livestock owners should be aware that adult livestock (cattle, goats & horses) have instincts that will enable them to survive a hurricane provided that their movement is not physically restrained.

Move animals to high ground and turn them loose in pastures that are not affected by flooding or storm surge. This is particularly important for goats; the islands' goat population suffered the heaviest losses due to drowning during hurricane Ivan.

Where possible, young livestock (two months old 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 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.

Adult pigs are best kept in their pens. Pig pens are never totally enclosed and therefore are of minimal resistance to high winds. However piglets that are under five weeks old should be protected from driving, cold rain. Where possible, piglets should be confined to a dry and secured area.

All livestock owners need to make plans now.

  • Stock up on feed; make sure it is stored in a safe dry place for use after the hurricane.
  • Ensure you have an adequate supply of drinking water. Ponds, watering holes and wells may become contaminated by salt water during a hurricane, and may remain so for a considerable period thereafter. When a storm is approaching, fill feed and watering troughs with water to prevent them from blowing away and provide water after the storm.
  • Have on hand halters, leads, tape, ropes, tarps and plastic, fly spray and animal medical supplies.
  • Contact fellow farmers and landowners to arrange a secure and safe place for your animals during a storm if you are in an area prone to flooding or storm surge.
  • Inspect fence posts to ensure that they are properly anchored in the ground and not rotted. Loose fence posts can become dangerous projectiles during a hurricane.

Most animals and birds have an instinct for sensing the approach of a natural phenomenon such as a hurricane. If restrained, animals will exhibit a restless or nervous behaviour. Do not further agitate animals by rough handling, but rather handle in a calm, firm, and gentle manner. Do not tether animals; turn them out onto pastures that are not prone to flooding or storm surge and give them a chance to fend for themselves. If possible, chose pastures with woven wire for fencing; it is more flexible and better at withstanding debris than board fencing and safer than barbed wire which can be torn down by flying, becoming an additional danger to nearby animals.

On the crop side, fruit trees and shade trees should pruned. Cut off all low hanging, dead, and unproductive limbs and branches. The greater the resistance of a tree to high winds, the easier it is for that tree to be uprooted. The rainy season is the best time of the year for the pruning of fruit trees.

Once a hurricane warning has been issued, farmers may also wish to consider chopping down banana and plantain plants (main stem and suckers) as near to ground level as possible. Plants that are cut down will shoot again and be back in production sooner than those uprooted by hurricane force winds.

Farmers should ensure that all fertilizers, pesticides and equipment are stored in safe, secure and dry location. With the approach of a storm, if possible, remove and securely store irrigation lines, pumps and other equipment that might be damaged by the wind or flooding.

As with homes and businesses, it is always important to secure farm buildings during hurricane season. Secure loose boards and roofing sheets which can become dangerous missiles during a hurricane. Take down, tie down and secure everything you can and cut off dead limbs and/or trim trees back to safeguard property.

Pet owners are also reminded to make sure all preparations are in place for their pets including having necessary supplies of food and medicines on hand and ensuring arrangements are in place as to where their pets will be during the storm, as pets are not allowed in hurricane shelters. Owners planning to take their pets off the island need to first make their flight arrangements and confirm with the airline that their pet can travel with them. Once this has been done, then owners must to go their local veterinarian to get an export health certificate. This certificate should then be brought or faxed to the Department of Agriculture as early as possible to obtain the export/re-import permits for their pets. Please remember to travel with all necessary documentation to ensure your pet will be allowed to leave and return to the island in a timely manner.

For more information on securing your farm and/or livestock, or exporting your pet, please contact the Department of Agriculture at 947-3090.