10 tips to reduce flooding impacts on your horse farm
For over three months in 2011, Burt County had more acreage inundated by floodwater than any other county in Nebraska. In 2019, some stations along the Missouri River reported that the river crested four feet higher than 2011 levels. There was no advance notice, so no precautions could be taken. Photo courtesy of John Wilson.

Flooding is often inevitable in the spring. Follow these expert tips to lessen the impact it has on your land – and your horses.

In the spring of 2019, severe flooding caused devastation for farmers across the Midwest. In preparation for another wet season, The American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America are spreading the word about how land owners can lessen the effects of flooding and make recovery easier.

“Flooding is a stressful – and oftentimes dangerous – situation that can leave you feeling helpless,” says John Wilson, CCA. “Sometimes it happens overnight, other times you have some advance warning, but usually there is nothing you can do to prevent it.” However, according to Jon, there ae a number of steps you can follow to reduce the negative impacts of a flood on your farm:

  1. If possible, store what’s valuable on higher ground if your farm or acreage is susceptible to flooding. This could include equipment, tack, forage supplies, and emergency feed reserves. Never use any feed source that has come in contact with floodwater.
  2. Consider how you will supply clean water to your horses. If your well has been contaminated with flood water, test it to make sure it is safe before using it for livestock or human consumption.
  3. Have an evacuation plan and be ready to implement it if flooding is likely, imminent, or occurring – but always remember that your safety comes first!
  4. Microchip, brand, and/or take good images or identifying characteristics of your horses to make identification easier if they are displaced due to flooding.
  5. If pastures are flooded, drylot your horses and feed them there until the soil in your pastures dries out. If this is not possible, cross-fence to isolate a small portion of a pasture that you will sacrifice and reseed later, while protecting the balance of the pasture from damage caused by hooves “punching out” plants, injuring grass stands, reducing productivity, and creating a rough soil surface.
  6. Carefully check pastures that have been flooded for debris that could cause injury, and remove it before returning horses to the pastures.
  7. Make sure vaccinations are current, including for tetanus and mosquito-borne diseases such as Eastern, Western and Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (EEE, WEE and VEE) viruses as well as West Nile virus (WNV).
  8. If horses have to stand in mud or water for extended periods, carefully monitor for and be ready to treat hoof and lower leg problems, such as thrush or scratches.
  9. Thoroughly wash horses that have been exposed to flood water to remove any toxic residues, debris, or microorganisms that may have been in the water. Also, this is an excellent opportunity to check closer for any other injuries that may have occurred.

For more equine flood recovery information, go to the EDEN (Extension Disaster Education Network) website at eden.lsu.edu. For information about how to prepare a horse disaster kit and first aid kit, visit eden.lsu.edu/media/3301/howtoprepareforequinedisasters.pdf.