The start of the new year in the Ozarks certainly did not lack in excitement.
Several of us are just now starting to get a good look at what near record flood water left on our farming operations. My own family’s farm sits on Shoal Creek and we started our year with lake front property, and it could be well into March before the ground is stable enough to rebuild fence lines.
We were lucky to have pasture with high ground for our livestock to retreat to as the waters rose, but some of our neighbors could only hope and pray their livestock and machinery would survive the flood waters.
When a natural disaster such as this strikes our area, three issues always cross my mind: insurance, health and future prevention.
For example, as an agricultural lending officer in the area, I know that not very many of our producers carry replacement livestock insurance, as opposed to our crop producers who carry crop insurance as a matter of course.
One reason for this is replacement livestock insurance can be costly for some, especially those of us who only have a few head of cattle.
A second reason is that disasters like this recent flood are relatively so rare that it does not seem worthwhile to pay for an insurance policy that very well might never be used.
On the flip side of those reasons, however, is if one were to lose all their livestock, does that person have the desire, let alone the ability, to replace those head out of pocket if no insurance is in place?
Another issue I always consider is health related, especially this time of year. It is cold, it is wet, and there is really no likelihood of that changing soon. This time of year we are constantly on the lookout for pneumonia and other diseases, and especially so now.
And what about anything that can be direct result of the floods?
As the waters recede, all sorts of trash is left in our pastures, which could lead to possible case of hardware disease. And our soil was definitely disturbed; we had a 20-foot wide, 6-foot deep trench in the middle of our road due to the flood.
That soil disturbance could possibly increase our chances of blackleg and other diseases deposited in the soil as our herds move onto the pastures when spring growth comes on.
Lastly, there is the analyst in me that asks what could have been and what could be done differently to ensure a better outcome from a natural disaster like this year’s flood. Could we take the livestock to another farm, or will the neighbor allow us to move them there temporarily?
Should we put in water gaps, flood gates in our fences, or broaden those we have? Should livestock insurance even be considered? Did cleaning my section of the creek bed help or not, especially if a neighbor did not clean theirs?
And, as always, what can we do to make sure events like these do not take away the family farm from the future generation?
For every event, large or small, can have a lasting effect on our family farms and our ability to pass them on to the next generations in this great industry of agriculture.
Jessica Bailey is an agricultural lender at Hometown Bank in Neosho, MO. A resident of Newton County, she also raises cattle on her family’s farm and is an active alumni of the Crowder College Aggie Club.


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