Courtesy photo --
At a recent Bovine Emergency Response Program participants had the opportunity to go inside a cattle pot to see first hand how the moving parts of the trailer worked. They also learned about the structural components of the trailer and where to make cuts into the metal without compromising the structural integrity and safety of the trailer in an emergency.
Courtesy photo -- At a recent Bovine Emergency Response Program participants had the opportunity to go inside a cattle pot to see first hand how the moving parts of the trailer worked. They also learned about the structural components of the trailer and where to make cuts into the metal without compromising the structural integrity and safety of the trailer in an emergency.

A semi truck hauling cattle is involved in an accident and there are cattle loose on a busy roadway and also trapped in side the trailer. How exactly should emergency management handle the situation?

The Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, Minnesota Beef Council and AgStar Financial Services hosted emergency personnel and veterinarians from around the state to learn the answer to scenarios like that this month.

The groups held training sessions in Luverne in the southwest part of the state, Rochester in the southeast part of the state and Staples in central Minnesota, the first week of October. 

The Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association executive director Ashley Kohls applied for a grant from AgStar Financial Services to bring the Bovine Emergency Response Program (BERP) to Minnesota. The program is put together by North Dakota State University, Iowa State University, The Ohio State University and West Virginia Extension.

“We picked the locations based on the amount of truck traffic that went through those respective locations,” Kohls explains. 

BERP helps fire departments, law enforcement and EMTs plan for livestock-related traffic accidents or livestock in the road.

Kohls says the meetings were necessary since there was confusion on who should be the ones responding to a truck accident. She gave the example of one of the meetings where the sheriff’s deputy in the room thought the veterinarian would have it under control. The veterinarian said nobody was going to call her to tell her a truck rolled over; they would call law enforcement first. Then the producer in the room said he is the one who usually gets a call.

“That was a conversation they needed to have because obviously they didn’t ever talk to each other and they fortunately have not had to deal with one yet,” Kohls says.

Through BERP, they made plans for a first contact, second contact, on down the line so the dispatcher would have the numbers of who to call. Those numbers would include veterinarians and producers with cattle panels, trailers and basic cattle handling knowledge. It would also include numbers for county or regional livestock auctions and rendering services.

“It’s definitely a multifunctional plan and it’s not a one size fits all,” she says. “You have more rural fire departments and law enforcement like Staples, who already somewhat had a plan together, just not formalized.”

Participants had five hours of classroom training, an hour of hands-on cattle handling, an hour of hands-on euthanasia and an hour in a cattle pot semi trailer. During the euthanasia portion, participants used a captive bolt gun on a roping dummy head filled with clay to practice. In the semi trailer, they saw how the doors worked and tried to figure out where to cut it to retain the structural integrity of the trailer.

Kohls says the feedback from attendees was fantastic. Many liked the hands-on opportunities. One said, “As a deputy sheriff not used to being around farm animals, this was a great introduction to what to expect around cattle and how to control them.”

Another said, “Although we learn about many of these aspects in veterinary school, many of the practical aspects are missed. It would be great to include them with the rest of vet school curriculum.”

Kohls has already had fire departments asking if her group could come do bits and pieces of the full program.

“We’ve had a couple of fire departments already ask if we can come in and do the euthanasia part and eventually do the biosecurity part, so break it down into different parts and pieces,” Kohls says.

In addition to veterinarians and emergency responders, Kohls invited some beef producers to sit in at the meetings. She says they were excited that there was a program for this.

“Giving them (emergency responders) farmer contacts with the know-how to actually help. It was really assuring for cattle producers that went,” Kohls says.