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Cattle Mortality: Preparing for Severe Weather

Cattle spend much of their time outdoors, where they’re exposed to a number of natural risks, including exposure to severe weather. According to a 2015 USDA study, weather-related deaths were one of the leading causes of loss, claiming a total of 157,400 cattle and 261,900 calves.

For cattle ranchers, your animals are your livelihood. When they’re at risk, so is your bottom line. That’s why it’s important to know how to react to and prepare for all weather situations to ensure the health and safety of your herd.

Severe Thunderstorms

Flying debris, hail and lightning can be deadly for cattle left outside during a severe thunderstorm. If possible, bring livestock into a stable shelter before the storm hits and make sure they have plenty of food and water. If shelter is unstable or unavailable, leave cattle unrestrained outside so they have room to flee and seek natural shelter.

If outdoors, ensure a safe environment for your livestock by grounding all wire fences and fencing off or removing single trees to prevent cattle from gathering under them.

Extreme Temperatures

BEEF Magazine says that cattle are built to handle all sorts of weather conditions – as long as they have the proper nutrition, body insulation and wind breaks. Throughout the winter, provide cattle with adequate shelter, food and water. If temperatures drop significantly, reduce cold stress by increasing food intake and pay special attention to thinner cows.

Extreme heat can cause dehydration, heatstroke, and even death if cattle are left unchecked. During the summer months, make sure your cattle have access to shade and water at all times


Livestock are uniquely vulnerable during tornadoes due to the difficulty of finding secure shelter for them. Only place cattle inside a barn if that shelter is stable enough to weather the storm – otherwise, the building may collapse on top of them. The best course of action is often to turn cattle loose in a large pasture or wooded area where they have room to flee if necessary.

If you know about an incoming storm with enough notice, consider relocating your cattle to a safer area, however, make sure to prioritize your own safety; don’t get caught outside or on the road trying to relocate your animals during a tornado.


If a wildfire is approaching your ranch, do not wait until the last minute to start evacuating. Cal Fire suggests contacting local fairgrounds or stockyards about their policies and abilities to temporarily take livestock. If you don’t have the means to transport your cattle, make arrangements with local companies or neighbors.

Again, make sure you prioritize your own safety. If you must leave your animals, leave them in a preselected, cleared field with enough food for 48 to 72 hours.

The unfortunate reality of severe weather is that it is often unpredictable, and you may not even have time to implement an emergency response plan. That’s why our new American Live Stock Cattle Program includes protection from severe weather. Learn more on our website or contact a James Allen Insurance representative today.

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