Alberta promotes livestock emergency trailers

The number of emergency livestock handling trailers in Alberta continues to grow.

A trailer recently installed by the M.D. of Taber Regional Fire Service brings the total to 16 units able to respond to traffic and vehicle accidents involving livestock.

Alberta Farm Animal Care is working to increase awareness of the trailers’ availability and it posted a trailer at the Oct. 12 Livestock Expo in Lethbridge as part of that effort.

The livestock emergency response unit housed in Nobleford, Alta., was on display, and firefighter Andrew Watson talked about its equipment and use.

“The call comes in and we will respond. We usually send anywhere from four to seven guys out. If possible seven, but four for sure,” said Watson. “We basically set up a complete corral system. Containment is a very big issue because … if we don’t have these trailers, we’re going to have animals running (around). Our biggest concern is to get the animals out of the trailer, contained, into another trailer and getting them on the road.”

Watson said the trailer is equipped with 20 fence panels, four gates, mesh fencing and various tools that allow firefighters to cut open trailers if necessary to remove animals.

Though cattle are the most commonly transported livestock in southern Alberta, the rescue trailer and personnel can also handle pigs, horses, sheep and poultry.

“In the last week and a half, we’ve had this trailer out twice,” said Watson. “So it is being used.”

The Nobleford unit was sponsored by the Lethbridge Northern 4-H Beef Club, he added, and farmers donated the panels and most of the equipment. Similar rescue trailers are now stationed in Westlock, DeBolt, Grovedale, Nisku, Ponoka, Rocky Mountain House, Red Deer, Fort Macleod, Lamont, Kitscoty, Coronation, Hanna, Brooks, Taber and Dunmore.

Kristen Mortensen, AFAC communications co-ordinator, said Alberta’s 911 dispatchers are aware of the trailers’ existence and can call for their use when needed.

The need for greater awareness most recently became apparent this summer when a truckload of pigs overturned near Standard, Alta., but the livestock rescue unit wasn’t called because responders weren’t aware of its existence.

Pigs that survived the crash died of heat stress because there was no place to contain them had they been removed from the wreck. Now 911 dispatchers can be asked to send the livestock rescue trailer to an accident scene. AFAC’s emergency line, 800-506-2273, can also be called at any time to assist in dispatch.

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