Alta. livestock groups roll out ‘livestock ER’ trailers

Alberta’s livestock organizations have rolled out a new fleet of livestock handling equipment trailers for use in emergency situations.

The trailers are to be stationed in four "key areas" of the province based on animal movement volumes and the groups’ co-ordination plans, along with a "roaming" unit for use provincewide.

A new training course is also being developed, through Vermilion-based Lakeland College, for workers operating and using these units, dubbed "livestock ER" trailers.

"These new resources will strengthen our capacity to respond to accidents or challenges involving livestock and will support the safety and well-being of both people and animals on our farms and roadways," provincial Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson said in a release Friday.

Trailer host sites will include the MD (municipal district) of Willowcreek, at Claresholm; Cypress County, at Medicine Hat; Westlock County, at Westlock; and Vermilion River County, at Vermilion. The Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) will operate and maintain the Alberta-wide roaming unit.

The training course for the units’ operators, meanwhile, is to be delivered by Lakeland College at its Emergency Training Centre at Vermilion.

Most people involved with livestock are "adequately equipped" to handle animals, but incidents can arise where proper livestock handling equipment is not readily available and the new resources will help expand the reach and "fast deployment" of these tools, said Heini Hehli, chair of Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC), a producer groups’ partnership on animal welfare issues.

"As livestock producers, we know that livestock care doesn’t end when animals leave the farm," said Hehli, who operates a dairy farm at Rimbey, about 60 km northwest of Red Deer. "Safe transport is a top priority and an area where we have long worked with the transportation industry, those involved in emergency response, and different levels of government, to continually improve approaches and resources."

Both the trailers and the training were ideas spawned at the Alberta Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Strategy Steering Committee, following the deployment of such trailers at Red Deer County and Ponoka.

The initial project plan leading to Friday’s launch came from a subcommittee including representatives from the Alberta Equestrian Federation, Alberta Beef Producers, Livestock Identification Services, RCMP, AFAC and the provincial agriculture department.

The new trailers were financed through the federal/provincial Growing Forward ag policy funding framework.

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