Livestock and Poultry Buildings:

After the Flood

Many livestock and poultry farms have suffered animal losses and production building damage due to Hurricane Floyd and the resultant flooding. Many questions and decisions will be faced after the flood waters recede regarding getting these facilities back into production. Are my facilities worth salvaging and remodeling, or do I build new facilities? Each farm will have a certain amount of site specificity regarding clean-up. A checklist of items to be aware of that may need attention is presented to help farmers during the clean-up. Remember that it is most important to ensure that the building is safe for humans to enter. Then the welfare of the surviving animals that may still be in the building must be considered (feed, water, ventilation, etc). Finally, what is needed to repopulate the buildings? Stop and think about what you are assessing before taking action. In many cases, a trained professional must be contacted to ensure the safety and restorability of flood damaged facilities.

Checklist of items to be aware of before attempting to use buildings that have flooded for animal or bird housing again :

Personal Safety Before Entering Any Flooded Building / Facility

  • If electrical power is still available at the farm, shut it off before entering or working around where there may be live power.

  • Shut off valves to all petroleum tanks.

  • Until all power sources have been shut off or stabilized and buildings well ventilated, do not smoke or have open flames near buildings or fuel sources.

  • LP gas or above-ground gasoline/diesel storage tanks may have floated from their foundations. If so, they should be secured and any damage to valves, fittings, lines or meters should be repaired by qualified professionals.

  • If hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas is smelled (rotten egg odor), leave immediately. Return only with appropriate respiration apparatus.

  • Lower all side or endwall curtains, and if a generator is present, ventilate the building before entering or working in it.

  • Check for obvious structural damage; e.g., building shift from foundation, eroded or damaged earthern floors or foundation walls.

Inspect Structural Integrity of Building

  • Check for racking or stresses in structural members, exposed ends of structural members, loosened trusses or roof members, large cracks in masonry walls. Specifically, examine nailed joints for signs of movement. Assessment of questionable damage and repairs should be made by qualified professionals.

  • The foundation of upright silos may have been weakened and should be assessed by a qualified structural professional.

  • When working in the buildings, wear protective clothing, boots, a face mask, protection for open wounds, eyes, nose, and mouth. After working in buildings that have been flooded, bathe and wash thoroughly with an anti-bacterial soap immediately.

Manure / Mortality Inside Buildings

  • Contact the NC State Veterinarian's Office of NCDA before handling, removal and disposal of dead animal and bird carcasses. Rendering, incineration, composting, or burial may be appropriate disposal methods but each method has its limitations and should be approved first by the State Vet.

  • Remove wet litter from poultry buildings. Let soil in earthern floors dry before putting in new litter, otherwise the new litter may become saturated. New soil may need to be added to the bare or hardened to replace asaturated soil removed or subsided.

  • Pump or drain floodwaters and manure from collection pits underneath hog houses into lagoons or land spread. Be aware that gases may have built up to unsafe levels inside houses with manure pits. Also, agitation or disturbance of concentrated manure in storage will release high concentrations of H2S which will be unsafe for workers and animals inside buildings without adequate ventilation.

Building Preparations

  • Remove any loose wall sheeting and fiberglass insulation that has been under water.
  • Stud wall cavities that have been under water may still have water in them which will decay the wood if not allowed to drain and dry out.

  • Wash flooded walls and floors similar to the way they would be washed between groups of animals or birds to remove as much organic material as possible. Consider using a pressure washer in well ventilated areas.

  • Disinfect those areas which animals can contact by spraying with standard disinfectants. Phenolic disinfectants are good in the presence of organic compounds.

Equipment Inside Building

  • All flooded electric motors even after thorough cleaning should be checked. They may start up and run for a short period but then quit because of bearing failures, burnt-out windings, or organic matter build-up within the motor. Many may need to be replaced.

  • Flooded electrical switches, convenience outlets, light fixtures, circuit breakers and fuses should be replaced.

  • Flooded environmental controllers will probably need to be replaced.

  • Ventilation fans can probably be salvaged except for motors and bearing failures.

  • Heaters and brooders should be checked and serviced by qualified professionals.

  • Flooded evaporative cooling pads will need to be replaced to avoid potential disease risks.

  • Dairymen who have flooded milking parlors will need to work closely with their health inspectors and the milking equipment representatives during clean-up.

Watering System

  • Have drinking water sources tested for at least bacterial indicators, petroleum products, or any pesticides or chemicals that are known to have been stored on or near the farm. Consult with the county health department as to whether or not chlorination is required. Remember that the water may not be suitable for animals either.

  • Check and flush drinking water lines and waterers to buildings after water sources have been determined to be safe.

Feeding System

  • Empty flooded feed tanks and properly discard any molded or water-logged feed.

  • Remove molded feed from feed delivery lines. If lines are bent or the augurs are binding, consult feed equipment manufacturers.

  • Nutritionists should be consulted regarding feeding water damaged feed and the quality of feed in silos that have been flooded.


  • Proper lagoon liquid level management should be a year-round priority. Its importance is especially magnified prior to and during extended rainy and wet periods.

  • When floodwaters recede, visually check dam or embankment inside and outside for obvious signs of seepage, erosion or other damage. If there is any question about the integrity of the dam seek assistance from NRCS or their qualified soils engineer immediately.

  • Notify NC Division of Water Quality Regional Office for your area if your lagoon is overfull (liquid level above or into the 25-year, 24-hour storm storage capacity) and needs pumping. Obtain their approval before irrigating.

  • Irrigate from the lagoon until water levels are back down to below the freeboard and 25-year, 24-hour storm storage levels (normal lagoon liqiud operating levels).

  • Irrigate on highest and driest fields farthest from streams or other environmentally sensitive or flooded areas.

  • At first thought, because of the excess rainfall and dilutional effect, one would think the lagoon liquid nutrient levels would be lower. However, we know that any time there is an unusual storm, the wind action causes the contents of any impoundment to be mixed. In the case of lagoons, mixing or disturbance of the bottom sludges releases some of the sludge nutrients back into the liquids. Therefore the net effect may be that liquid nutrient levels may not be any less concentrated but because of the extra volume of rainfall, there may be more total nutrients to irrigate and land apply. In the case that you may exceed your annual farm nutrient plans because of the extra nutrients, the Division of Water Quality will have to make the call on what they will accept from a regulatory standpoint.

  • Repair any drainpipes from the buildings to the lagoon, recycle lines or pumps and electrical connections that may have been damaged.

Irrigation and Land Application Equipment

  • Check irrigation lines, hydrants and risers for ruptures or damage that could cause leaks.

Possible resource material or assistance sites :


Prepared by

James C. Barker1, Gerald R. Baughman1, Robert W. Bottcher1, Robert O. Evans1

Roberto D. Munilla1, J. Mark Rice1, Ronald E. Sheffield1, Philip W. Westerman1

W. Morgan Morrow2 and Jesse L. Grimes3

1Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department

2Animal Science Department

3Poultry Science Department

North Carolina State University

Raleigh, NC

Return To Cooperative Extension Disaster Page

Last Updated: October 1, 1999