By David Manly
Photo courtesy of David Manly.
Nov. 7, 2013 – In the agriculture industry, transportation of animals is a necessary part of any operation. Live or dead, certain precautions need to be taken in order to make sure that it is done safely. But, accidents can and do happen. And what happens when animals are being moved and there is an unfortunate accident mid-transport?
Luckily, Farm and Food Care (FFC) Ontario has begun a pilot project that has created a livestock emergency awareness van that can respond to animal accidents and provide the tools necessary for first responders. “It is a van that is fully equipped with multi-species set of tools that, if you were to respond to an emergency with livestock, such as a barn fire or truck rollover, that you could use all the tools inside the van to help you get through the emergency,” said Kristen Kelderman, a farm animal care coordinator for FFC.
The van is still in its preliminary stages, so FFC is taking it to events in order to start conversations with the general public and first responders to raise awareness on the need for such a vehicle in Ontario. “First responders are not really equipped to deal with these sort of emergencies – so, having a conversation about it and letting them know is what it is all about,” she said.
Kelderman also added that because animals are moving across the province every day, accidents could be very traumatic, especially with police officer and firefighters trying to ensure human safety. “And adding animals on top of that is an added challenge.”
The livestock emergency awareness van started out as a pilot project, inspired from a similar one in Alberta, which received partial funding from the Growing Forward program. Floyd Mullaney, a consultant on both the Alberta and FFC van projects and former police officer in Alberta, said that the main goal of both vans are to promote and support animal welfare in the province and across the country.
“There are currently five emergency preparedness vehicles in Alberta all run by firefighters … but we would need six or seven more to cover the entire province,” he said. “For the FCC, they wanted to utilize producers for manning the trailers. I went back to them as said that I disagree, and that they should look to firefighters.”
The FFC van was unveiled at the Canadian Outdoor Farm Show in late 2013, followed by the launch of a new website, www.livestockwelfare.com at the beginning of October, which will have a series of livestock emergency resources available for training and education.
“We will also host a series of videos that run across the various principles of animal welfare – animal handling, responding to an accident involving animals, etc. for anyone to use,” said Kelderman.
The van is primarily geared towards smaller livestock, such as swine and poultry, but they are exploring the possibility of extending its reach and making it multi-species. “In the van, we have flashlights, batteries, garbage bags, bio-security equipment, heavy duty equipment that include saws to cut through metal, a generator, snow fence and more. Everything from a pitchfork to saw!” she said.
“We are still in the process of collecting equipment – I don’t think it will ever be complete – it is an ongoing process”
It has taken over a year since the initial idea to secure all the funds and accumulate the equipment. FFC worked very closely with Ontario Pork and received funds from the Canadian Swine Health Board.
Following its launch this fall, FFC will be contacting first responders to collaborate with, as well as Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Ministry of Transportation and more, but it is still a work in progress.
“We are really excited about this pilot project,” Kelderman said, “and it is a great link between agriculture and first responders.”