Have you heard about Tony Alsup, a truck driver who bought an old school bus, ripped out the seats and drove to the South Carolina coast to rescue shelter dogs and cats in the path of Hurricane Florence? It was a daring last-minute feat that delivered 64 animals to safety.
And it got us thinking. Most of us have emergency plans for what to do when hurricanes, tornadoes or flooding come our way. Those plans usually include pets. But what do livestock farmers do in the face of natural disasters?
That’s a question for Donna Kilpatrick, a farmer engagement manager at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. The Ranch is a 12,000-acre sustainable farm that’s home to pigs, goats, sheep, horses and chickens. When dangerously bad weather threatens, Kilpatrick goes through a five-point checklist.
Of course, farmers on the East Coast who took similar measures to these still found themselves and their animals in trouble. Livestock is not nearly as easy to evacuate as dogs and cats, so farmers often have no choice but to leave them behind. Latest reports show that 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 pigs in North Carolina didn’t survive Florence and her aftermath. Other animals made it through with human help. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture stepped in to help evacuate horses stranded in flood water, and countless good Samaritans poured in with boats, bulldozers and trucks to stage animal rescues. One animal, Red the beef cow, was drowning in flood water before he was tied to a boat and towed to safety. A beef cow no longer, Red will live out his days with rescuer Mike Stura at the Skylands Animal Sanctuary and Rescue in Wantage, New Jersey.