Caring For Animals When Power Goes Out

How did livestock farmers ever raise their animals in the days before electricity? The way we farm now is much different. Hot water heaters, mechanical ventilation, and electric lights are all items taken for granted – until a weather event cuts off the juice.

Russ Daly is an Extension veterinarian at South Dakota State University. He says many farms have generators that will kick in, but they aren’t always fail-safe. You should also have a back-up plan for the back-up.

"So the first thing is just to sit down and ask yourself, what would happen with my barn where I have my pigs, or my barn where we have the calves, or it’s calving time and I need to make sure make sure I have some milk replacer for calves or colostrum. All those kinds of possibilities," he says. "Depending on the time of year and the production status of your farm when the power outage hits, it might be very different circumstances."

Daly says a common use for electricity on farms in the winter months is supplying water to the animals. 

"The first thing is probably thinking about okay, how am I going to get water to our animals if we do depend on electric pumps for a water source," says Daly. "Is there a surface source of water that they can use, are we going to have to get down there and break some ice for animals to go in and drink water? They can maybe get by with using snow for a temporary water source, but animals that are lactating really need some water."

Vaccines and other medications stored in refrigerators should be treated like food items when the power goes out – keep the fridge door shut unless absolutely necessary. If the animals require heat, provide deep bedding to keep them warm.