Florida, August 19, 2004: Sixty-three percent
of Florida ranches, stocked with approximately 1.2 million
head of beef cattle, were significantly damaged by Hurricane
Charley, reported the Florida Cattlemen's Association.
The storm destroyed fencing and caused farm structural
damage on approximately nine million acres of cattle
ranches in Florida. The state’s largest populations
of cattle are located within fourteen of the twenty-five
counties designated as federal disaster areas. Charlotte,
Desoto, Polk, Hardee, Highlands and Osceola counties
were the areas where cattle ranches suffered the most
Fortunately, the Florida Cattlemen's Association also
reports that based on their communications with cattle
ranchers, their employees and families, there was no
reported loss of life.
In preparation for the storm, many ranchers tied open
the interior gates of their ranches to give their cattle
the ability to access more drinking water and mobility
to dryer, higher ground. A ranch’s routine pasture
rotation is often thrown off by a period of heavy rain
but allowing cattle to roam a larger range insures they
have access to adequate grazing.
During storms, cattle generally get along pretty well
in pastures as long as some debris does not hit them.
They are safer in a pasture than in a confined structure
that may collapse on them. However they do need dry
ground to lie on and to graze. Cattle move away from
standing water in pastures, primarily to avoid mosquitoes.
Unlike other livestock, cattle are not typically kept
in structures so flooding is less of a concern. Also,
supplemental feed is usually not necessary for cattle
on range during summer months as long as they have access
to dry grassland for nourishment. Many cattle are lost
every year in Florida due to lightning strikes but there
have been very few reports of any cattle fatalities
from Hurricane Charley.