Hurricane Preparation Guide for Florida Beef Producers


As any true Floridian knows, June marks the start of the hurricane season. If anyone understands the power of Mother Nature and the importance of preparation, it’s our ranchers and growers. Make a plan now so you can keep yourself, your loved ones, and your animals safe through the season.

Recordkeeping, Documentation, and Insurance 

● Check insurance policies concerning which type of perils and animals are covered. Following a hurricane, claims can range from animal injuries and deaths due to storm impacts to vehicular accidents resulting from compromised livestock fencing. 

● General farm business policies may only provide protection against certain types of claims such as vehicle collisions or accidental shootings. Optional livestock coverage may include losses due to natural weather events, such as flooding or severe storms, and disease mortality. If evacuating hazardous areas with beef cattle, livestock in transit may also need additional coverage. Coverage can be based on a per head or herd basis, or on farm value (blanket policy). 

● The importance of pre- and post-hurricane documentation cannot be overstated. Assistance for disaster recovery may not be available until weeks or months after a hurricane. Therefore, it is important for purposes of insurance compensation and recovery assistance to do thorough recordkeeping of the damages and losses sustained on your farm as well as your cleanup and recovery efforts.  

● Regularly review your insurance policies with your agent to be sure you have adequate coverage, including flood insurance, for your facilities, vehicles, farm buildings and other structures, and livestock. 

● Establish an inventory system so that you know exactly what’s on your farm at all times for potential insurance claims and disaster recovery assistance. It is critical to have a documented inventory (photos, videos, and written lists and descriptions) of your farm buildings, vehicles, valuable equipment, and livestock on your farm before a disaster occurs. Maintain accurate records of harvest, equipment inventories, and supplies purchased. Keep copies of this inventory in multiple places such as on your computer, offsite in a safe location, and on a cloud-based server using an established procedure to update and transmit the information weekly. 

Infrastructure Buildings 

● Consult topography and flood maps when building new facilities, storing feed and hay, and moving animals. Buildings and working facilities should be built on well-drained soil, on level land or sloped away from streams and other bodies of water. 

● Locate buildings above the 100-year flood zone whenever possible, and construct buildings and other structures to meet the building code requirements in your area. Consider the potential for higher elevation areas on the property to become evacuation sites. 

Water Management 

● Make sure proper drainage away from the buildings is provided. 

● Consider creating water retention areas to reduce overall flooding during low- to moderate-intensity hurricanes. 

● Make sure culverts are properly designed regarding size and location. 

Maps and Signage 

● Keep farm premises maps updated to include fences, gates, and roads to make moving cattle safer in the event of a storm surge or flooding. Given the frequency of animal movements, a brief description of animals kept and photos of types of identification used, such as ranch tags or brands, will also be helpful. 

● Detailed premises maps should be included with the Farm Emergency Plan that illustrate the topography and general location of cattle, roads, bridges, crossings, equipment, and buildings and other large structures. 

● Prepare or update maps for all facilities, including locations of alternate entry/ exit routes, electrical equipment (with shutoff options), fuel storage tanks (both above and below ground), propane tanks, compressed gas (for welding, etc.), and chemical spill equipment. 

Evacuation Planning 

● Identify potential evacuation sites well in advance of hurricane season, keeping in mind that public facilities normally used for agriculture or exhibition purposes may be allocated for other purposes during a disaster situation. Collaboration with other farms to provide evacuation space will help free up the usual public facilities for housing rescued animals or other uses. 

Animal Identification 

● Provide unique and permanent identification for all cattle, as this is important not only for good management practices but also in case there are questions later about ownership of cattle. Animal identification and appropriate documentation can also protect against theft. 

● Register the herd with the State animal health official through an animal identification number or premise identification number. 


● A general rule is to start livestock evacuation procedures 96 hours prior to a predicted hurricane landfall. If you wait too long, you run the risk of severe traffic backup and contraflow traffic patterns, which could delay evacuation and put animal health at risk. Cattle stranded in trucks for long periods of time are more susceptible to heat stress and injury. Furthermore, evacuation of cattle may not be allowed at all once mandatory human evacuation has been declared. 

● Know the possible evacuation routes and any emergency traffic patterns. Be sure to plan alternate routes. 

● Place or stage portable facilities and gates to allow cattle to become familiar with the equipment before evacuation begins. 

● Confirm livestock movement requirements if going out of State, and acquire proper health papers, or certificates of veterinary inspection (CVIs). Electronic CVIs may also be available. Many States will waive interstate movement requirements when a disaster is declared or pending, or in emergency situations. 

●Take plenty of water, feed, hay, and veterinary supplies to the evacuation destination. Adult cattle can require 10 to 25 gallons of water per day, and up to double this amount in hot weather. Confirm who will be taking care of the animals at the evacuation site. 

● In the event that it is not possible to evacuate or save all animals, prioritize the protection measures implemented based on market value, age, breeding status, and other factors so that genetics are preserved and economic losses minimized.

● Record the number and animal identifications of livestock left behind to expedite recovery, identification, and reunification after the hurricane. 

● Storm surges (flooding) can be even more destructive than the hurricane itself in coastal areas. In these areas it is especially important to allow cattle access to higher ground. If necessary, tie interior gates open to give cattle access to more drinking water and to provide them with a better chance of moving to safer/ higher ground. 

This is an excerpt from the USDA and Florida Forest Service’s Beef Producer’s Guide. To view the guide in its entirety, go to

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