Tornado Spares Middle Tennessee Livestock (320)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tornadoes did not cause serious livestock losses at Middle Tennessee cattle farms, University of Tennessee agricultural extension agents said Friday.

UT Extension offices in Davidson, Dickson, Maury, Rutherford and Williamson counties said dairy and beef farmers have reported few cattle losses, despite heavy damage to buildings and six people killed.

Dr. Bill Graves, UT dairy extension specialist in Nashville, said farms probably suffered more from dead computers than dead cows.

“A big problem has been damage to computers from lightning and power surges, not the wind blowing cows away,” Graves said. “About 75 farms in Tennessee use home computers to manage operations or run equipment. My computer is out, and I know of at least three farms in Middle Tennessee where computers are down.”

Graves said the worst agricultural loss may have been old trees in downtown Nashville.

“There are 150-year-old trees in Centennial Park downtown that are just lying on the ground,” Graves said. “It destroyed trees that can’t be replaced.”

Bob Strausser, a 1980 UT-Knoxville graduate who owns Davidson County’s only dairy farm, said large hailstones threatened his 250 head of dairy cattle.

“I put my milking herd up, and the rest sought shelter under trees and roosts,” Strausser said. “We had the largest hail I’ve ever seen in my life. The cattle really freak out in hail storms.”

Jim Johnson, agricultural extension agent for Davidson County, said tornado winds rarely kill cattle.

“Cattle seem to fare pretty well in tornadoes,” Johnson said. “I guess they may have a way of somehow getting away from the storm.”

Johnson said a Davidson County tornado in 1974 — when 47 twisters touched down in Tennessee’s worst year of tornadoes — left his 200 head of cattle unscathed.

“That tornado was like a bush hog, it just cleared everything,” Johnson said. “It knocked down fences, trees, barns and everything else, but we did not lose any livestock at all.”

Contact: Dr. Bill Graves(615-832-8341) or Jim Johnson (615-862-5995)