Danger on the Road
It’s been a long day and anxious to get home, you’re driving along your normal route when suddenly you spot some black shapes alongside the highway. As they seem to be moving in your direction, you hit the brakes (safely, of course) and slow to a stop to take a closer look. When the shapes start to wander onto the pavement, you realize that a herd of cattle has gotten loose and there is no farmer or vehicle in sight. With the light fading and your growing concern about other motorists or the cattle potentially getting injured, the long day seems as though it’s about to get longer. What’s a motorist to do?
With the above scenario playing out frequently over highways all over Alberta, a reoccurring question is “Who needs to be contacted when livestock are on the highway or public roads?” It seems cattle, sheep, horses, bison, or even goats manage to find that one weak fence or open gate in search of more pasture or the closest garden. This poses a risk to any traffic also traveling that same section of road. As the motorist may not be familiar with the producer in the area, or even be from that area itself, trained assistance is needed to prevent any injury or potential collisions.
First, the motorist’s safety is of paramount importance and should be safeguarded the entire time. Do not park in the middle of the road or try to move a large herd alone. Livestock can be unpredictable and easily spooked, leading to potential injury of the motorist. Stay in the vehicle, turn on the hazard lights, and use the horn or flash headlights if needed to warn other oncoming motorists.
Second, reach out to the local RCMP detachment by calling the non-emergency line. A comprehensive list of all detachments can be found on the RCMP’s website – HERE. The RCMP should be the first call as the livestock pose an immediate danger to all traveling on that road. They also have access to further resources such as emergency livestock trailers, contacts with producers or ag fieldmen, and manpower to help contain the herd.
While waiting, be observant. Once the RCMP have arrived on scene, they may require further information such as direction the livestock came from, the overall number, and if there were any stragglers that separated from the herd that may not be immediately observed. Follow their direction once they are on-scene, ensuring personal safety, until being told that it is safe to move the vehicle and continue traveling.
Some of the resources that the RCMP may utilize include the county’s Ag Fieldmen, whose role Melissa Moggy explains further in her article – CLICK HERE. Another resource used if the livestock cannot be immediately identified is the Livestock Identification Services or LIS. LIS was initially the brainchild of the Livestock Identification Committee, comprised of representatives from the Government of Alberta and a number of organizations such as Alberta Auction Markets Association, the Feeders Association of Alberta, the Western Stock Growers, the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association, the Alberta Cattle Commission and the Alberta Livestock Dealers and Order Buyers Association. LIS today operates as the comprehensive list of registered livestock in Alberta, working with their own LIS inspectors to inspect and ensure the brand validity of over 5.4 million head of livestock a year. They also provide a wealth of information for producers and members in the livestock sector, sharing everything from best identification practices and relevant legislation to biosecurity protocols.
As always, if motorists, producers, or members of the public are concerned about livestock welfare or care, they are recommended to contact the ALERT Line . The ALERT Line is an anonymous, producer helping producer call line. If you have questions or concerns about animal welfare, including if you need support, call this number: 1-800-506-2273