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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Safety and Precautionary Measures Urged Ahead of Potentially Severe Storm

Provide shelter for livestock and pets; stockpile feed; and if necessary, follow best practices for dumping milk

Harrisburg, PA – With winter weather poised to strike the Mid-Atlantic this weekend, Agriculture Secretary Russell C. Redding urged Pennsylvanians to take precautions should the threat of potentially-severe storms hold true.

“Snowfall and low temperatures could make this a dangerous winter storm for Pennsylvanians who aren’t prepared for closed roads and blizzard conditions,” said Redding. “For those in the agriculture industry, I urge you to plan ahead to mitigate any risks to your livestock, your facilities and the environment, not only for this storm, but other future weather events. Planning now can mitigate problems later.”

Protecting Animals from Cold Stress

Owners should protect pets and livestock from low temperatures and high winds that can cause them to suffer from cold-related stress. Animals kept in temperatures below freezing are susceptible to hypothermia, which can result in frostbite in their extremities and life-threatening respiratory conditions and decreased heart rates. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, lethargy, low heart rate and unresponsiveness.

“While it’s easy to think that dogs are immune to cold because of their fur, the fact is that more dogs perish in the winter than at any other time of the year,” said Joel Hersh, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team (PASART.) “Some are better able to handle the cold than others, but a taking a few simple precautions can ensure an enjoyable winter experience for both pets and their people.”

PASART is a nonprofit which partners with the state Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) for emergencies affecting animals. For more information about PASART, visit

Redding and Hersh offered additional tips for helping pets and livestock deal with the cold:

• Protect animals from the wind.

• Provide adequate clean, dry bedding.

• Keep animals clean and dry to maximize the insulating properties of their coats.

• Change water often to prevent it from freezing. Pets need water to prevent dehydration, which can contribute to hypothermia.

• Provide additional feed, including hay and grain, to livestock. Ensure it remains unfrozen.

• Never leave pets in parked cars. Parked cars amplify the effects of cold weather.

If your animals exhibit signs of hypothermia or for more information contact a local veterinarian.

Planning Shipments and Deliveries

Farmers and agribusinesses can continue operating in the case of impassable roads by:

· Working with suppliers in advance of storms to ensure timely delivery of feed and other essential items.

· Contacting co-ops and milk haulers in advance of the storm to discuss your storage tank capacity and possible alternate pick-up schedules.

· Reaching out to your township supervisor to alert them to pickup and delivery needs at your farm and receive updates on when roads leading to your farm may be plowed.

· Creating a bank of important phone numbers for individuals and suppliers you work with and coordinate schedule adjustments with them.

· Knowing the contact information for your local emergency management agency and contact them in the event of serious issues.

· Making arrangements for snow removal and clearing on your farm, including private farm lanes. When clearing snow, remember to check barn roofs as well to avoid structural damage or collapses.

During previous storms, some dairy producers have had to discard milk due to road closures and other hazards. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection offers the following guidance if you must dump milk:

· Take all necessary steps to prevent milk from entering any waterways.

· Dump milk into a manure pond or natural depression.

· Only dump the amount of milk necessary to accommodate the needed milking due to runoff when snow melts.

Working through the Storm

Redding also suggested producers prepare their facilities for safe working during the storm by:

· Checking roofs for snow loading. Drop rafter suspended equipment to ground or on blocks, if possible, to reduce roof weighting during heavy snowfall.

· Checking back-up generators for fuel levels and fuel condition.

· Checking watering equipment to ensure adequate water supplies are available and free flowing.

· Ensuring footing is as best it can be for animals that have to travel over concrete.

· Inspecting farm roads to major buildings and entrances to the farm from roads to reduce ice slippage.

· Having a buddy system in place or carrying cell phones while working outside. If farm workers have to work outside, check on them regularly.

· Ensuring proper operation and ventilation of space heaters and any other open flame heaters.

The commonwealth’s ReadyPA campaign encourages citizens to take three basic steps before an emergency occurs: Be Informed, Be Prepared, Be Involved. More detailed information, including free downloadable emergency home and car kit checklists and emergency plan templates, is available online at The free ReadyPA app is also available for both Apple and Android devices.

For more agriculture safety tips, visit Penn State Extension’s disaster preparedness site at


Anonymous said...

I wonder what they did in the good ol' days? It rained and snowed and somehow we all survived.

Ol' Pap said...

True, most survived, but there were instances where animals or people perished due to inadequate planning. Animals and people suffered frozen limbs and lifelong disabling injuries due to inadequate planning.

"Good old days" Bah...humbug. it was so cold, My Model T was frozen to the ground and the tires froze square. It didn't start so I had to hand push it at 25 miles n hour before she popped. I walked 10 miles to school uphill...both ways. I once had to man a fire when it was so cold, the flames froze. I broke them off and threw them out into the brush and started a new fire with warmer wood. Unfortunately, when the flames thawed out in the spring, they started a brush fire that burned the hog pen. Had more ham and bacon than we knew what to do with!