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Dealing with too much rain on the farm

Flooded fields and farm sites.
Photo Source:  National Pork Board

By: Diane DeWitte, UMN Extension swine educator

Originally printed in The LAND - in the July 5, 2024 Swine Edition

It was mid-May when my delight with a good rain began to morph into concern quickly followed by worry. Plentiful May rainfall is always a two-edged sword when its schedule impedes crop planting progress. Continued measurable rain quickly begins to affect all aspects of the farm, and UMN Extension is now fielding house, well and farmstead flooding questions.

Everyone’s farm and rainfall issues vary; here are a few strategies and resources for farmers and rural householders dealing with an overabundance of rainfall on the place.


Extension Educator Emily Krekelberg sagely suggests that there is no reward for the one who suffers the most. When farmers don’t take proper care, they put themselves and others in danger.

Recognize behavioral signs of stress like worry, poor concentration, isolation and negative talking.
Look for physical signs including poor sleep, weight loss or gain, and poor hygiene.
Watch for signs in yourself or others and talk to someone you trust.

The Farm & Rural Helpline is confidential and available for free any time when you need to talk to someone who will understand your situation. Farm & Rual Helpline is available 24/7 at 833-600-2670. Or text FARMSTRESS to 898211, or email


Pigs living inside most of Minnesota’s pig barns are not at risk during excess rainfall, but it’s good to have plans in place in the event of rain-related catastrophes. Even with pigs inside the barn, many times the farmstead is awash in a way that makes feed transport, mortality removal and semen delivery a big problem. Flooded roads all around the countryside can reduce the ability of feed trucks and pig transporters getting to the farm in a timely manner. While creating an emergency traffic plan may not help with today’s flood issue, it can be a goal to create one for the future. Resources at the Secure Pork Supply Plan website can help farmers organize their pig operation through the lens of a potential emergency.

Dr. Jon Holt of Integrated Animal Nutrition provides these pointers for ensuring swine well-being following a flood.
  1. Inventory all animals: As soon as possible attempt to inventory all animals and locate any missing animals. Inform neighbors and other producers about lost animals. If you find any displaced animals that are not yours, attempt to pen those animals in an area away from your own stock. You cannot be sure of the disease status of other herds. It is also important to move any mortalities away from live animals as quickly as possible to prevent potential disease spread.
  2. Repair or remove damaged equipment: Building structure as well as pens, crates, feeders, etc. should be inspected for damage. Damaged equipment can result in cuts and other injuries to pigs and people. It is important that everyone stays safe in the facility while working. This is also a good time to check that water nipples are flowing correctly and that any wet feed is removed from feeders and proper adjustments are made for feed flow. Take into consideration that some pigs may have been restricted from feed during the flooding and co-mingling in new pens will change feeding behavior. It may be useful to open feeder adjustments to account for increased meals in the days following flooding.
  3. Observe all animals for wounds and health: All pigs should be visually inspected, and any wounds should be treated immediately. This may include euthanasia for severe injuries that cannot be treated. Pigs that need treatment should be isolated into treatment pens away from the other population. Pay close attention to the pigs’ hooves, especially breeding animals. Prolonged exposure to standing water and wet environments can increase infections of the foot and damage to the hoof. Lastly, it may be necessary to increase the amount of fly traps and repellents as it is common to see increased insect activity after flooding occurs.
  4. Inspect feed and water: Wet feed and water-damaged grain can become moldy and cause digestive problems. Mold can also lead to problems associated with mycotoxins. Furthermore, feed and grain that has been subjected to flooding could be contaminated with other harmful chemicals. Pigs should not be forced to consume potentially contaminated feeds. Observe the pigs and if feed refusal is noticed, the feed should be replaced. Severe flooding can also contaminate the water supply used for your pigs with chemicals or harmful bacteria. It is important to observe pigs for gastro-intestinal issues that may be associated with contaminated water and have your water tested if a problem is suspected.


Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) issued a special edition Ag Stewardship newsletter to alert and inform livestock producers of their options and responsibilities related to stored manure. With overabundant rainfall, pollution sources could include overflowing manure storage structures as well as open feedlots located in floodplains or in sensitive areas where runoff can enter surface waters.

If manure storage facilities overflow, if manure enters surface waters, or if a storage structure is inundated by floodwaters, farmers must call the Minnesota Duty Officer immediately at 800-422-0789.

Take immediate action to reduce environmental impact such as:
  • Creating temporary berms to stop discharge
  • Temporarily plugging culverts & tile intakes to prevent manure inflow
  • Soak up liquid with absorbent material such as hay straw or wood shavings.
  • Do not construct or modify the basin without MPCA or county feedlot officer approval

If manure storage facilities are in danger of overflowing, farmers should contact the MPCA at 800-657-3864 or 651-296-6300 and ask for a feedlot staff person for help. Additionally, farmers can contact their county feedlot officer. Find Minnesota’s 50 feedlot officers here: MPCA’s manure management in adverse conditions info:


If you have a private well water supply, it’s important to inspect your well and get drinking water tested after heavy rains or flooding. Water testing at a certified laboratory is crucial, and the Minnesota Department of Health provides this up-to-date list of accredited labs who accept drinking water samples.

Drinking water contaminants are usually absorbed by the soil before they enter a well but sometimes if a well isn’t sealed or constructed correctly, they can enter the system. Severe weather and flooding can make these issues worse.

Private wells should be tested annually for coliform bacteria. This bacterium is an indicator that some other potentially dangerous bacteria may also be in your water such as E. Coli. If any foreign material such as rodents or animal feces ended up in your well, a coliform bacteria test can tell you whether you need to investigate further.

To take a water sample, work with a certified water testing lab near you. They will provide instructions on how and when to test your water. Make sure to follow handling and sanitizing instructions since there can be false-positive results if you don't sanitize your faucet well enough before sampling. Source:


Wet grain or feed quickly go out of condition; any steps to prevent flooding of stored grain and feed should be made prior to a rainwater breach. Proactive, protective action is important. Consider sandbagging and moving grain to unused bins that are less likely to flood. If flooding is inevitable, move grain to a safe location.

Keep in mind that grain that has become adulterated due to exposure to floodwater may not be used for human food or animal feed. Source:


Former UMN Extension engineers Larry Jacobson and Kevin Janni provide a game plan for addressing damaged livestock structures, beginning with the warning to be safe before attempting temporary repairs. They also suggest asking these questions:

  • Should we continue raising livestock on this farmstead?
  • How much will it cost to repair the damage to the existing building?
  • If building new, should the unit be located where the old barn stood?
  • What about manure handling? Is there space to build new or is the farmstead too small?
Although the storm/flood was tragic, try to look at it as an opportunity to improve facilities. This may be a way to streamline a pig flow problem, consolidate manure handling, or relocate to a more desirable site.

Deciding to build new or fix the old barn should be made after getting some solid bids on renovation costs. It is probably better to start from scratch if the cost of repair is more than two-thirds of the cost of a new barn. 

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