Lyndall Harned

Lyndall Harned

It has been a tough year for many livestock owners. Not only have cattle prices dropped but, due to weather and predation, many calves, kids, etc. have been lost. It is hard to make money when your product is there one minute and gone the next.

Late winter and early spring are prime time for many calves to be born, and a time when late kids and lambs are also born. We all know what the weather was like then, alternating cold with rain and rain and more rain. To a newborn even 50 degrees in a cold rain can be fatal.

Many tried to confine the mommas-to-be in pens close to the house or with access to barns or sheds, with some luck. Of course you cannot keep them up for extended periods of time because that can make its own mess.

If she births early or you are not able to see the signs of impending birth, the momma will usually try to isolate herself from the rest of the animals and people. When you miss her, then the hunt is on. Several times the moms do not choose the best place to give birth. Not to make a pun, but many times it is just wherever they are when the feeling hits them.

Unfortunately, this can be while they are astraddle of a low spot or an ephemeral stream, and splash goes junior. Now he is wet and cold. And, if it is deep enough, submerged, too.

Some people think that this is due to uncaring or negligent farmers. 99.9% of the time, this is just simply not the case. These young are the product that they hope to take to market and sell for income. Losing a calf can cost the owner hundreds of dollars in lost income, there is no one more concerned about the health and wellbeing of those just being born.

Just ask any farmer if they have ever tried to help a young mother give birth in knee deep mud at 3 in the morning, or in a torrential downpour in 40 degree weather. Or had to stay up 2 days waiting for that ewe to deliver twin lambs. Most will have their own stories about farm births.

I am not sure which is worse, to lose a young animal at birth, or to have it born and live and then have it taken away in a few weeks. Logically, from a financial standpoint, I would argue it is tougher to lose the animal that survived for a time. And not because of emotional reasons.

If an animal has lived for a few weeks, many times you have spent additional time and money on it by that time. Maybe you have vaccinated it against diseases, put fly and id tags in its ears, maybe even had to bottle feed it or buy colostrum for it to drink if mom did not produce enough. Many ways to spend money on young animals trying to keep them alive.

Or maybe you have bought several dozen eggs and hatched them or even bought chicks and raised them up to lay eggs, either for sale or your own use at home, laying eggs or eating.

Then the black headed buzzards comes along and kills the calf and chickens, or the weasel slips in and kills several chicks, or a raccoon breaks in and kills all of the young turkeys. Think this is an over exaggeration?

This actually happened to a local producer in Boyd County over the last couple of months. Two calves lost, 70 laying hens and 90 turkeys (in one night) just getting ready to go out in the pasture in the next few days. That is a lot of income, or potential income, lost.

Well, it just so happened that the Farm Service Agency (FSA) has a program that may be able to help, even if you do not have insurance against such things, which many if not most farmers, do not. It is called the Livestock Indemnity Program, or LIP for short.

The current rendition of this was authorized in the Farm Bill and provides benefits to eligible livestock producers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality rates or reduced sale prices due to injury caused by eligible conditions.

Not every animals that dies is eligible for this. Those deaths must meet specific conditions and requirements. Generally this include “eligible adverse weather conditions, eligible disease and attacks by animals reintroduced into the wild by the federal government or protected by federal law, including wolves and avian predators” (such as black headed buzzards). This does not include losses to ‘regular’ predators like raccoons or weasels.

So, the farmer I mentioned above can apply for some financial relief for his livestock that were killed by the black headed buzzards. No guarantee he will be approved, but chances are good if certain requirements are met. And no one will get rich off of these potential payments since, even if approved, they only reimburse at a rate of 75% of the market value. But hey, anything is better than nothing.

The farmer, in order to be eligible, “must have legally owned the livestock on the day they died or were injured by an eligible loss condition”. Now that is word for word from the FSA factsheet.

The livestock to be eligible, must have been maintained for commercial use as part of a farming operation the day they died and not have been maintained or produced for reasons other than commercial use. Basically, you had to have been planning to make money on them not keep them as pets or pasture ornaments. Also excluded are animals that are wild free roaming or animals used for hunting, roping or showing.

Know that there are a few additional pages of requirements that the animals must have met to be eligible for the farmer to get reimbursement. These include very specific descriptions of what constitutes eligible adverse weather, disease or attack.

If you have lost any livestock this year, or do lose some going forward, it is at least worth checking this program out. Who knows, maybe you can recoup some of your loses. To find out if you may be eligible, contact our local FSA office in Grayson at 606-474-5183. Or look on the FSA-USDA webpage –, click on the Program and Services tab, then on the drop down menu click on Disaster Assistance Programs, then on Livestock Indemnity Program.

Or as always, you can contact me at the Boyd County Extension Office and I can help you find the information and to get in touch with the people who administer the program.