Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


New training course launched to support safe livestock handling in Alberta

Posted: April 17, 2013

An innovative new training course is set to launch in Alberta that will help to support the safe handling of livestock when transport incidents and other emergency or loose livestock situations occur.

The training course is designed to support emergency preparedness and will be delivered by Lakeland College beginning this spring. It will focus on training emergency responders and others who may be involved in these incidents, in the use of a new fleet of livestock handling equipment trailers for the province that was announced several months ago.

The new "Livestock Handling in Emergencies and Equipment Trailer Training Course" will be offered by the college's Emergency Training Centre and School of Agriculture instructors at Vermilion, Alta. Support for the trailers and the course development was provided by Growing Forward II – a provincial/federal/territorial initiative – along a range of livestock industry groups and stakeholders including Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC), which represents all the major livestock producer organizations in the province.

"The livestock trailers are a tremendous resource to support safe livestock transport and handling in Alberta," says Heini Hehli, a Rimbey, Alta., dairy producer and chair of AFAC. "The new training course will ensure we have well-trained emergency responders operating and using these trailers. It represents an important step forward in helping to provide leadership in animal welfare, while supporting the safety of both people and animals involved in these situations."

A pilot phase for the course produced strong positive reviews and some good feedback that will help the course developers fine-tune the content and format. The first offerings of the two-day course are planned to start in late April. There has already been a strong response in registrations and interest.

"The pilot phase and the early response and feedback have been just excellent," says Denis Cunninghame, Manager, Training Services at Lakeland College. "We're very excited to introduce this course. For emergency responders and others who can benefit from this equipment and knowledge, the trailers and the training combined will provide a brand new resource to dramatically improve their capability in dealing with incidences involving livestock."

The progress related to both the trailers and the training course has stemmed from discussions initiated by the Alberta Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Strategy Steering Committee. The Steering Committee was inspired by the vision and forethought of groups in Red Deer County and Ponoka that developed similar livestock handling trailers for deployment in their areas. A sub-committee including representatives from the Alberta Equestrian Federation, the Alberta Beef Producers, Livestock Identification Services, RCMP, AFAC and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development created the initial project plan. Funding support was provided through the federal/provincial/territorial Growing Forward initiative.

The recent announcement and deployment of new trailers included several counties / municipalities and one non-profit organization chosen as trailer sites, based on animal movement volumes and strategic coordination plans. These included MD of Willowcreek – Claresholm; Cypress County – Medicine Hat; Westlock County – Westlock; Vermilion River County - Vermilion; and the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which deploys an Alberta-wide roaming unit. This adds to an existing fleet of three trailers located in Red Deer County, Hanna, and Ponoka, for a total of eight trailers in the province.

In addition to a course location on site at Lakeland College, which will use college instructors and animals, plans are underway to make the course available through distance learning, says Cunninghame. This will be done in a format that allows local emergency services departments to train staff using their own instructors. There will be an instructor criteria allowing for local delivery.

Initial course offerings at the college will run two days, seven hours per day, typically on weekends to accommodate volunteer departments. The course is open to any emergency responder, such as fire, EMS or law enforcement, along with agriculture services personnel, SPCA, veterinarians and others. "Ultimately we want to accommodate anyone who might benefit from this training as part of their role to aid in the response to animals in distress," says Cunninghame.

Watch for additional information on the Lakeland College Emergency Training Centre website at www.emergency-training.ca. More information on AFAC is available at www.afac.ab.ca.