Farm preparation in the face of COVID-19 means making plans that are subject to change to protect people, livestock and farm assets.
Emergency management specialist Rebecca Gimenez Husted provided a disaster response plan for the livestock sector during a virtual conference sponsored by Alberta Farm Animal Care on March 19.
“This is an unforeseen thing to happen to people that affects many other things,” she said.
The safety of the human food supply depends on the health and care of food-producing animals and farmers. Emergency planning is underway but agriculture is an unknown to many.
“In many of your communities your emergency managers are overwhelmed and they really don’t know what to do when it comes to livestock, and they have no idea what to do in transportation of ag products,” she said.
“You may want to give them some of your expertise even in your local community,” she said.
Daily best practices on the farm are things that should have been done from the beginning whether there was a threat in place or not.
The equity market is dropping and heading for a major economic contraction based on the virus so small business owners must make plans to deal with it.
“There is data to show only five percent of small businesses affected by a major disaster ever recover to a functional state. A lot of that comes down to lack of adequate insurance coverage,” said Giminez Husted.
Farms without good records have a difficult time making an adequate insurance claim. Find out what government aid is available for recovery.
In some countries, bottlenecks are occurring and it is disrupting supply chains.
Slow-downs could affect fuel, feed and other supplies delivery or milk pick up.
Other major concerns for small farm businesses in disasters include personnel availability, cash flow, continued income for employees, continued provision of quality care for animals including feed delivery, and a euthanasia plan if the veterinarian cannot come.
Many farms have employees so plans are needed if people get sick and cannot come to work or decide to stay home out of fear of the virus.
Further, many farmers are older and could be more susceptible to illness.
Face masks, gloves and other protective equipment are in short supply. Make prudent purchases and do not horde farm supplies, she advised.
While some farmers lack good internet service, it is still important to keep social media, websites and phone messaging up to date. Farmers are urged to make a list of passwords. Set up a phone-text messaging list to communicate emergency plans and response.
Continuity of business plans are critical for all sized operations. Small farms may struggle to handle disruptions because the owner may be the sole operator.
All producers and operators of livestock-associated businesses should take a serious look at their operations and write out plans, directives and operations instructions in as much detail as possible.
This also includes designating a trusted person to take over if the operator gets sick.
Basic biosecurity applies during these times:
- Wash your hands
- Wear your mask
- Stay home if you are sick
- There is no evidence to show transfer between animals and humans but frequent hand washing is advised after touching animals.
- No kissing people or animals
- Protective clothing in the workplace needs to be washed daily on site.
- Stagger lunch times and breaks to increase distancing of employees.
- Clean and sanitize contact surfaces:
- Sanitize common gathering places
- Create separate drop-off areas for deliveries away from on farm housing. Add signage for drop off areas.