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Livestock disaster and emergency planning discussed

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Disasters and emergencies happen suddenly and without warning and unexpected events involving livestock can be traumatic, but there are ways to prepare. 

Producers, first responders and animal control personnel should be prepared for any emergency or disaster by being properly trained and creating crisis plans.

When planning for an emergency, remember those responding or providing assistance may not be familiar with livestock or the area.

Priorities for crisis planning varies to some extent depending on the type of livestock, facility, transport, location and type of disaster.

Disasters most likely to occur are trailer accidents, tornados, hurricanes, floods, fires, power outages and contagious disease outbreaks. 

However, some areas will have additional hazards to consider, such as high winds, landslides and hazardous materials. 

Livestock ERAIL training

The U.S. agriculture industry is robust, and with numerous trucks and trailers transporting millions of animals weekly for food production, exhibition and recreation, accidents will occur. 

Transportation accidents are one of the most common disasters horse and livestock owners will encounter.

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension released a guide including tools, training and resources to help first responders.

The MSU Extension office has created priority areas of preparation, including how to respond effectively to transportation accidents involving livestock, virtual training modules on how to understand animal behaviors and Emergency Response to Accidents Involving Livestock (ERAIL) training programs. 

ERAIL is an in-person training program to prepare first responders, law enforcement officials and the agriculture industry to handle accident situations. 

According to MSU Extension, ERAIL training includes classroom presentations on proper handling practices of various livestock species, animal behavior, handling of compromised animals, mortality management and how to create an ERAIL response trailer.

The training’s hands-on session focuses on growing the confidence of first responders when working with livestock by increasing their understanding and movement of an animal with hands-on practice.

Traditional response vehicles are not equipped with specialized equipment to manage livestock, so during the hands-on training, MSU Extension provides livestock trailers for attendees to walk through and learn from livestock haulers on navigating different types of livestock trailers.

There are important things to know regardless of the type of animal emergency responders are dealing with, but developing an organized network of trained responders throughout the state is key, MSU notes.

Best management practice

Creating personalized emergency plans for evacuating or sheltering-in-place with horses helps owners be as prepared as possible when disasters occur.

During the April 3 episode of the American Quarter Horse Association’s Let’s Talk podcast, Veterinarian and Oklahoma Large Animal First Responders Volunteer Dr. Clayton McCook discusses the importance of being prepared for a natural disaster or emergency. 

Different types of natural disasters pose unique threats to property and animals, so emergency plans need to be tailored to specific scenarios.

He notes, “Being prepared is key. More planning and practice will reduce unknowns and stress during a difficult time.”

Mitigating stress by staying calm and organized with a seamless policy and procedure plan will help reduce trauma to the horse in the event of a natural disaster or emergency.

McCook states, “If the plan to evacuate is put into action, make sure you know the appropriate route and have a paper map in case cell service is not available. Plan to travel with all necessary items to fully maintain animals for several days.”

Be sure to include enough water – 12 to 20 gallons per day per horse – hay, feed and medications for several days for each horse.

“Shelters often do not have enough supplies for every animal during emergencies, so prepare to travel with buckets, bedding material, hay nets, feed and water, a clean garbage can to be filled with potable water, a first-aid kit, several halters and lead ropes, a muck fork, fly spray and grooming supplies,” McCook advises.

He also suggests maintaining up-to-date digital records including Coggins tests, vaccination records, permanent identification and registration records, medication prescriptions, health certificates and photos for identification, including ones showing owners with their animals.

Identifying horses is critical and improves the chances they will be returned to their owners if they are lost or displaced during a natural disaster.

“Methods of permanent identification include microchips, hot iron or freeze brands and lip tattoos,” he mentions.

“Have a back-up plan in case it’s impossible to transport animals when evacuating,” he adds. “Consider different types of disasters and whether horses would be better off in a barn or loose in a field.”

He concludes, “Reach out for support by contacting local organizations and/or agricultural Extension offices which may be able to provide you with information about your community’s disaster response plans.”

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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