Five more emergency trailers, equipped with tools meant to humanly handle livestock in crisis situations, have been released into the province.
The trailers launch event, held at the Calnash Ag Event Centre, Nov. 30, revealed Cypress County, the M.D. of Willow Creek, Westlock County, Vermillion River County and the Alberta SPCA received the trailers.
The emergency trailers are part of a collective initiative headed by Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC).
Project manager Lorna Baird said the project stemmed from discussions with the Alberta Farm Animal Health and Welfare Steering Committee, and its committee that comprises several AFAC members, the RCMP and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.
“It’s a real proud moment for Alberta Farm Animal Care and our project team,” said Baird.
“The team was really inspired by the vision of Ponoka and Red Deer County groups that had already developed trailers like the ones we’re talking about today,” she added. “The project really wouldn’t have been as successful without the people of Red Deer County and Ponoka, who allowed us to learn from their experiences.”
Baird said throughout the development of the project there were three goals in mind. The first was to develop a network of trailers that would contain livestock handling equipment meant for emergencies such as natural disasters, barn roof collapses or trailer rollovers.
“The second goal was to create a sustainable training program to support the effective use of the trailers,” said Baird. The third goal was to actually purchase and equip the trailers.
The training program Baird mentioned is being developed in partnership with Lakeland College. The training will take place over two days—half theory and half practical.
According to Denis Cunninghame, associate dean of the college, first responders and other subject experts of the livestock industry will teach the course.
Once the program is fully developed this project will be nearing its end. However, “it’s not just the end of the story for AFAC and the trailers today,” said Baird.
In the future the trailers will be followed and monitored with reports.
Fire Chief Dennis Mann of Cypress County said with three major highways running through their area the county had been trying to acquire an emergency trailer since 2010.
“After responding to several livestock rollovers within our county it became apparent to us that we were lacking in two very distinct areas. One was the ability to humanely manage the traumatized livestock and the other was to ensure the safety of our first responders as well as the general public.”
For two years the county tried to acquire grant money for a trailer but were unsuccessful. However, this year they did manage to get the money to provide training for the first responders. Around the same time the county was approached by the Floyd Mullaney, a private contractor for AFAC about one of the five trailers.
Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins also attended the trailers’ launch and he feels initiatives like this can be expected of Alberta’s livestock industry.
“It’s no doubt that animal welfare issues are a growing concern to the public,” he said. “So I applaud the proactive approach that the livestock industry has taken right here in Alberta to find innovative ways to manage the handling and transport of animals in emergency situations.”
“And from the federal perspective I’m also proud that our government has been able to support this worthwhile project through our joint investment with the project of over $323,000 under Growing Forward,” Calkins added. He believes the trailers are one of the measures working to keep Alberta’s livestock industry and economy strong.
Verlyn Olson, minister of agriculture and rural development, agreed with his colleague in the importance of livestock and the industry in Alberta. “I hope it goes without saying that for our department and our government, animal health and welfare is a top priority.”
According to Olson, agriculture is Alberta’s second biggest industry and he feels, with Alberta’s renowned oil and gas industry, that fact is sometimes overlooked. “But we know that agriculture is really the heart and soul of Alberta.
The province has approximately five million head of cattle, 1.5 million hogs and 500,000 horses sheep and other livestock. Olson said with numbers like that it’s obvious why initiatives such as the trailers are needed assets.