Are you prepared for a disaster?

Oct. 19, 2017

Watching the national news Sunday evening — not something I get to do very often — a story came on about flooding in Iowa.

The clip showed a number of homes that were already flooded to the eaves. Heartbreaking.

Meanwhile, crews of citizens were busy filling sandbags and building dikes to protect areas that were projected to flood later this week as the river continued to rise.

While the story focused on the people in towns and cities along the rapidly rising Cedar River, as a dairy farmer you have to wonder what is happening in more rural areas.

Because of a similar event in 2008, many in the area had experience in preparing for the floodwaters and had moved belongings to upper floors and sandbagged around their homes before leaving.

I am sure cities and towns had well-developed plans after their experiences with the 2008 flooding. But what about farms?


Iowa doesn’t have quite as many cows as Ohio, but it is a significant dairy state. Parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin were also involved in this flooding event.

I suspect that somewhere in that region, at least a few dairy farms were affected.

If we were in the middle of a similar event, or experienced some other disaster which damaged facilities and cut our farm off from the rest of the world, how would we deal with it?

For a dairy farm this question applies to both production and business activities including people, animals, feed, equipment and facilities. How do you cover all of these bases?

Sit around and try to think of the worst things that might happen and how you would deal with them?

Most of us avoid that and just hope nothing bad ever happens. Fortunately, there are some resources to help guide planning for disasters.


Actually, a good resource is from Iowa State University’s Center for Food Security and Public Health. This website covers a wide range of natural, biological and technological disasters with excellent information and links to additional resources.

While all of us would be concerned about our farm in a disaster situation, resources are available concerning families, homes, livestock, crops and the farm business.

Not so natural disasters

Many of us learn the hard way that computer-based production and financial management systems should be backed up regularly to prevent data loss when the dreaded computer “crash” occurs.

These backups are important and are usually kept on site. Invest in another flash drive or two to keep backups of both the financial and production management systems off-site.

If (God forbid!) a disaster happened at your farm and the on-farm computer and paper files were gone, how would you answer these questions accurately?

How many cows, calves and heifers do you have today? Where are they? Who is due to calve, and when? Who should be bred? Who could be sold if you have to down-size?

How much money is in the checking account? What is in your machinery and equipment inventory? Can you prove ownership of your assets? How much time would it take you to find those answers, and how accurate do you want them to be?

That answer determines how often you should refresh off-site backups. Hopefully you will never need to use that information.


Author: Dianne Shoemaker