Assistance is available to farmers suffering livestock loss due to drought

Heather Gessner
South Dakota State University Extension
The Livestock Indemnity Program provides a payment to livestock owners or contract growers who experience excess livestock deaths due to adverse weather and disease.

The Livestock Indemnity Program is a disaster program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency. The program provides a payment to livestock owners or contract growers who experience excess livestock deaths due to adverse weather, eligible disease and eligible attacks.

Drought alone is not a qualifying event; however, deaths as a secondary condition of the drought may be covered. Coverage includes drought-enhanced diseases, like anthrax and cyanobacteria (blue-green algae blooms) and larkspur poisoning that cause livestock deaths. Extreme heat is listed as an adverse weather event, as determined by a Thermal Heat Index (THI).

Summary of program and coverage levels

The Livestock Indemnity Program compensates producers at a rate of 75% of the market value of the applicable livestock, as determined by the U.S. secretary of agriculture. In addition to death loss, compensation is available for animals injured during a qualified weather event and sold at a reduced price. The LIP factsheet lists the payment rate per head by livestock type and weight range.

Eligible livestock includes various types and weights of beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goats, swine, horses, poultry and bison, as well as select other species. Additionally, eligible livestock must be a commercial part of the farming operation. Animals produced for non-commercial means, including wild free-roaming animals, pets or animals used for recreational purposes, such as hunting, roping or show, are not covered by LIP.

The livestock owner must have legally owned the livestock on the day the animal died or was injured due to an eligible loss condition to qualify for LIP compensation. The death loss must be over average mortality or injured due to the qualifying weather event. Contract growers of poultry and swine may also qualify if the animals that died were in the possession and control of the contract grower. A written agreement stating specific terms, conditions and obligations of the involved parties was in place with the owner on the day the animals died. Contract growers are not eligible for losses due to injured animals sold at a discounted rate.

Normal mortality

Mortality rates establish "normal" losses for South Dakota producers under "normal" production cycles. Death losses above average mortality due to adverse weather, eligible disease and attacks by animals reintroduced into the wild by the federal government would be considered a qualifying loss for LIP.

Like crop insurance indemnity payments, the LIP program is not designed to cover all losses but to help mitigate the economic effect felt by the producer incurring the loss. Rates are available on the FSA website.

Loss documentation

Animal inventory records are a requirement to qualify for LIP. Documentation and records should include the livestock's quantity, kind/type and estimated weight of all animals and those injured or killed by the adverse condition.

Injured animals must sell to an independent third party within 30 calendar days of the end date of the eligible loss condition. Examples of verification for animals injured and sold at a reduced price include but are not limited to:

  • Sales receipts from a livestock auction
  • Sale barn or another similar facility
  • Rendering facility receipts or processing plant receipts

These receipts must include the price the animal sold for, kind, type and weight.

Contact your local FSA office for questions on qualifying documentation. A list of South Dakota offices is available on the USDA FSA website.

Acceptable beginning inventory records include:

  • Veterinary records
  • Canceled check documentation
  • Balance sheets
  • Inventory records used for tax purposes
  • Loan records
  • Bank statements
  • Farm credit balance sheets
  • Property tax records
  • Brand inspection records
  • Sales and purchase receipts
  • Private insurance documents
  • Chattel inspections
  • Contemporaneous producer records existing at the time of the event
  • Brand inspection records
  • Docking records
  • Shearing records
  • Ear tag records
  • Trucking or livestock hauling records
  • Acceptable proof of death or injury documentation includes:
  • Rendering truck receipts or certificates
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) records
  • National Guard records
  • Veterinary records
  • Records assembled for tax purposes
  • Private insurance documents
  • Bank or other loan documents
  • Contemporaneous producer records existing at the time of the event
  • Pictures with a date
  • Brand inspection records
  • Dairy herd improvement records (when applicable)


Owners and contract growers must submit a notice of loss to their local FSA office within 30 calendar days of when the loss is first apparent to the participant and make an application for payment within 60 days after the calendar year in which the eligible loss occurred.

Payment rates

The USDA has determined the payment rates for animals that have died. The rate is 75% of the animal's value. Producers need to apply for payment at their local FSA office. Producers must still file the notice of loss based on the information above.

Additional assistance

Producers facing expenses above the standard cost of doing business due to moving hay, water hauling or other expenses incurred due to the dry weather conditions may qualify for financial assistance through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).

The use of ELAP water hauling is based on a D3 drought designation as determined by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The Livestock Forage Program (LFP) is also available to producers in drought-affected counties. Contact your local FSA office for more information or to make an application for any of these programs.