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Livestock ER trailers hit Alberta roads

Trailers equipped with all kinds of livestock-handling equipment 
will be used in the event of highway hauling mishaps

Accidents involving overturned commercial livestock trailers are dangerous. Injured and frightened livestock jeopardize the safety of the public and first responders. But a new fleet of five livestock emergency equipment trailers will give more of Alberta’s first responders the equipment they need to handle stressed livestock at accident scenes.

The livestock Emergency Response (ER) trailers are not set up to treat or haul livestock. Instead, they contain equipment, such as corral panels, generators, saws, plywood, and snow fence, to free and corral livestock from overturned trailers.

Floyd Mullaney, project co-ordinator, says first responders can contain anything from poultry to cattle with the equipment.

“To me, you’re only restricted by your imagination,” says Mullaney. “There’s all kinds of tools and equipment in each unit.”

Within Alberta, municipalities along the busy Highway 2 corridor were among the first to use ER trailers. Red Deer County had the first unit a few years ago and Ponoka County soon followed suit. The trailers quickly caught the interest of other municipalities.

Rather than having each municipality put together its own trailer, Alberta Farm Animal Care co-ordinated a provincial program. The council received Growing Forward funding for five new trailers and a related livestock-handling course. Each outfitted trailer cost about $22,000, Mullaney says.

Since there are a limited number of livestock ER trailers to go around, stakeholders wanted to choose high-risk areas. An in-depth risk analysis looked at factors such as whether communities were near auction marts, slaughter plants, or feedlots. Stakeholders also examined accident reports.

Ultimately they decided to base the trailers with first responders in Claresholm, Medicine Hat, Westlock, and Vermilion. Mullaney says each location has a sharing agreement with neighbouring municipalities so the trailers are available to other communities in emergencies. The Alberta Society for Prevention to Cruelty to Animals also has a trailer to help seize distressed livestock during animal welfare cases.

Lakeland College is now putting the finishing touches on an emergency livestock-handling course for first responders. The college is offering the course through its Emergency Training Centre in Vermilion. Mullaney says the course will also be available to other parts of Canada on a cost-recovery basis.

Others watching

Adele Buettner, executive director of the Farm Animal Care Council of Saskatchewan, says after analyzing accident reports, the council decided there aren’t enough trailer rollovers in the province to justify livestock ER trailers right now.

But the council does provide, and is currently updating, a resource kit RCMP officers use to safely euthanize injured animals at accident scenes. The information will be included in RCMP training manuals and available at detachments in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Ontario.

The council is also offering an emergency livestock-handling demonstration to first responders and police officers in March, which will be facilitated by Jennifer Woods, who specializes in emergency livestock response.

British Columbia’s Farm Animal Care Council is currently studying the feasibility of putting together livestock ER trailers.

Carolyn MacLaren, general manager of the council, says that though British Columbia’s cattle industry is smaller and more localized, commercial trailer accidents are devastating when they happen.

Areas such as the lower mainland don’t see much commercial livestock hauling, and so emergency equipment trailers wouldn’t be placed there.

“But when we look at Kootenay-Cranbrook, that sort of region, then obviously there’s a demand because that’s where those animals are being transported into Alberta and south,” says MacLaren.

Both Saskatchewan and British Columbia are planning to deliver the emergency livestock handling course Lakeland College is developing.

Mullaney says it’s been a worthwhile project.

“We couldn’t have (the trailers) in the hands of better people. And as far as the training is concerned, I think Lakeland College is an ideal educational institution to deal with this type of course.” †

About the author

Field Editor

Lisa Guenther

Lisa Guenther is field editor for Grainews based at Livelong, Sask. You can follow her on Twitter @LtoG.



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