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Livestock disaster prep seminar held in Havre


Last updated 6/13/2022 at 12:27pm

Watch for more on the seminar in the July Farm and Ranch special section.

Montana State University Extension held a Livestock Disaster Preparedness Seminar at the 4-H Chuckwagon at the Great Northern Fairgrounds Friday, where a group of ranchers and safety experts from the surrounding area talked about what to do during natural disasters and what needs to be done to make ranches and communities as prepared for that as possible.

The seminar was lead by MSU Extension Animal Health, Animal Disaster and AgroSecurity Associate Specialist Dr. Jeanne Rankin, who grew up on a ranch and is a veterinarian with years of experience dealing with livestock.

While much of the seminar was filled by conversation among attendees about their areas’ needs, Rankin gave a presentation on what she and fellow experts have been doing to improve disaster preparedness across the state when it comes to livestock.

She said they work with law enforcement, firefighters, disaster and emergency service coordinators, and all kinds of other people at the state and local level who would be potentially responding to natural disasters and accidents, training them on how to deal with potential issues regarding livestock.

She said many people in law enforcement and other related fields prioritize human safety when dealing with situations, as they should, but oftentimes they don’t have any experience dealing with animals like horses and cows and pigs and don’t really know how to handle them.

Rankin said the first responders she and her colleagues talk to will always protect humans first, and oftentime the knowledge they try to bring responders can help immensely, allowing them to more effectively save the animals, keep them safe, or end their lives in the most painless way possible if they are badly injured or there is no other choice.

She went through a lot of the information they try to give law enforcement and emergency responders, but for the ranchers in the audience she also went into detail about what they need to do to make sure they are prepared for emergencies.

She said every property is different and every area will have unique concerns. Locally the big ones are fires and floods, though the latter seems less likely to be a problem in the near future.

Rankin’s presentation highlighted three key areas for ranchers to work on, creating a plan, testing that plan and setting up communication between themselves, their fellow ranchers, their neighbors and local officials in EMS, fire and law enforcement.

She said it’s critical for ranchers to stay in communication with all of these groups to make sure they are aware that they have animals in the area, what kind of animals they are and what the terrain is like.

She said the more people know in advance the quicker and more effectively they will be able to respond, and the better chance they will have to get themselves and their animals to safety.

Rankin said she knows from personal experience that ranchers are independent people and like doing things on their own when they can, but disaster preparedness requires communication, and she encouraged people to reach out and have conversations about these eventualities and keep them informed about where they are and what they do.

“I’m from a ranch, we’re all independent, but sometimes we gotta tell people what we’re doing,” she said.

She also talked about finding places to temporarily shelter animals in the event of an emergency, including setting up temporary corrals and herding animals while keeping their stress levels low so they don’t panic.

Rankin said different kinds of animals react differently to fire and other disasters and it’s important to know those differences on both the ranching and disaster response side of things.

She also stressed the importance of testing these plans, not just in table-top exercises, but in the real world, to make sure they work.


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