Lessons Learned After a Disaster with OSU’s Rosslyn Biggs

On today’s Cow-Calf corner, Rosslyn Biggs, DVM, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Beef Cattle Specialist talks about disaster response.

Recently we were reminded of the devasting impacts of Mother Nature during the wildfires that destroyed parts of Oklahoma and Texas. There is a lot to learn from events of this type so that we can be better prepared in the future. Three areas to consider as we reflect include: animal welfare, record keeping, and human health.

Cattlemen and women along with their veterinarians promote animal welfare at all times, but welfare is especially important when considering animals that have been injured in disaster events. During the immediacy of an event, there is often a desire to take extraordinary measures just so an animal can live. However, unbiased health assessment is often the best option before taking on extreme and lengthy treatment. Evaluation should occur quickly to determine if it is truly in the animal’s best interest to undergo treatment or if salvaging the animal is the best option.

During a disaster response, record keeping and documentation is often the last thing people want to think about. However, records are often even more critical during these periods. Records allow producers to justify eligibility if disaster funds from governmental agencies become available. For instance, maintenance of verified cattle inventories is typically necessary for response programs.

Finally, it is important not to forget the mental and physical toll taken on by impacted producers along with emergency responders during the immediate period of the event and well after. In a desire to help, many people place their own health and safety at risk. Mental fatigue and stress can also develop even in those that are seemingly the strongest. Continual exposure to grief and loss can also impact those helping with the response. It is important to support those needing health care by connecting with them and supporting the need for medical interventions.

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