The real impact of the May 22 tornadoes in Joplin and rural Stone County on area livestock and producers may not be known for several months.
“There is very little research on the subject of tornadoes impacting beef production,” said Eldon Cole, a University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist headquartered in Lawrence County.
However, Cole says there are several concerns that should be addressed. For example, following the tornadoes, some livestock simply wandered away because of downed fences.
“This is an example where branding of cattle and horses—or at least using personalized ear tags—would have been helpful,” said Cole.
There is an increased risk of hoof injuries from metal debris scattered over area pastures and hay fields. However, based on experience gathered in the May 2003 tornadoes, hardware disease did not pose much of a risk. “Insulation is scattered everywhere, too, but the impact of that is uncertain. Hopefully, cattle won’t find insulation very palatable,” said Cole.
Another consideration for producers is the loss of trees in pastures, which means less shade and more heat stress on cattle.
“Portable shades might prove worthwhile,” Cole said. Stocker cattle at the MU Southwest Research Center gained more when given shade during the summer. Breeding females also maintained a higher percentage of pregnancies when given shade, he said.
Trees also make great windbreaks during the winter. According to Cole, some fields may need temporary windbreaks before the long-term process of growing trees begins.
Another farm product affected by the weather was plastic-wrapped hay in big bales.