Trainings will prepare responders for livestock accidents

North Dakota State University and South Dakota State University, with financial assistance from the Beef Checkoff, will host several emergency response trainings to help communities prepare for potential vehicle accidents involving cattle.

The Bovine Emergency Response Plan and Training events will be:

  • Nov. 28, Killdeer Saddle Club, Killdeer, ND,
  • Nov. 29, Bowman County Fairgrounds, Bowman, ND
  • Nov. 30, Central States Fairgrounds, Rapid City, SD
  • Dec. 1, Mobridge Fire Hall, Mobridge, SD

Robin Salverson, SDSU Extension, is helping organize the events and encourages first responders, farmers, ranchers, sheriffs, members of local fire departments and more to attend. “It’s for everyone. Every accident is different, and I don’t think you can be over-trained when it comes to dealing with accidents,” said Salverson.

She said that experts will discuss different aspects of accident cleanup, including: where to park when arriving on scene, consider how animals will respond to flashing lights and maybe keep emergency vehicles away from the livestock, how to cut open a trailer or cattle pot if needed, how to set up panels if needed, what to do with the surroundings such as fence and where to put the cattle that are rescued, and when and how to euthanize cattle if needed.

“There is so much to think about,” she said.

Salverson said different kinds of trailers will be on hand for meeting-goers to walk through in order to get a feel for how to deal with a slant load horse trailer, for example, as compared to a large aluminum cattle pot.

“We’ll also have training on proper euthanasia,” she said. “We’ll talk about livestock handling at all locations, how animals respond to humans, how they respond to stress, and more.”

“Do you mix animals, do you cut the fence, will you mix them and then have to immediately re-sort? These are all considerations,” she said.

Bowman County extension agent Penny Nester said community emergency responders can learn from the presentation what kind of response plan to have in place. “They will learn how to prepare for an accident with cattle or other livestock, what kind of equipment is needed and more,” she said.

“Those people first on the scene, when they are dialing 911, can give information on what kind of truck or trailer is in the accident, what kind of cattle are involved, (approximate weight is nice), is the rig upright or on its side, which side it is on, and more, she said.

She recommends assessing the situation before letting cattle out.

“Sometimes we feel the need to let those animals out immediately but sometimes that can cause a bigger accident,” she said.

Kidder County, North Dakota, farmer and cattle producer Joel Dewitz has responded to at least three cattle-related accidents in his community.

He points out that if the rigs are sealed trucks from Canada, special considerations must be made such as contacting a veterinarian, brand inspector, or both, to learn how to handle the cattle once they are removed. Cattle from sealed trucks are not supposed to intermingle with other cattle, even to the point of sharing water tanks, he said, because the seal is intended to remain on the truck until it arrives at its destination.

He offers some tips:

  1. Line up corral panels and stock trailers to get rid of cattle once they come out. He suggests paneling straight from the wrecked trailer to a ground load trailer on site.
  2. Have on hand chains to connect panels. Panels will not latch together in a steep ditch.
  3. He has used a gas chop saw to cut open a cattle pot (Use the special type for aluminum.)
  4. If the trailer is laying on its side, in the snow, remember that the cattle walking out don’t have a good foothold (they are stepping through air vents into snow) so give them plenty of time to prevent more injuries.
  5. Be sure a veterinarian is on hand if euthanization is needed. The insurance company is a lot more likely to believe the euthanization was necessary if it was done by a veterinarian.
  6. When euthanizing, be sure people are clear of the area.
  7. Invest in portable stationary lights to show cattle how to get out of the trailer and onto the waiting upright trailer. Flashlights can be distracting and stressful to cattle.
  8. If dealing with a sealed Canadian truck, be sure to get veterinarian approval before moving cattle to a neighboring corral and get instructions on how and where to house and water the cattle. Be aware of intermingling cattle.

To try and prevent accidents from happening, Nester recommends drivers be as well-rested as possible, be aware of road conditions such as narrow shoulders, ice, snow, etc. Ranchers with pasture along the highways should maintain good fences.

NDSU Livestock Specialist Lisa Pederson helped organize the event and said that Beef Checkoff funding is helping to pay for speakers’ travel and meal expenses.

She stresses of course checking on the condition of the driver(s) first and foremost, and then finding out as much as possible about the livestock before removing them. “Building a pen is important for human safety and animal safety,” she said. She suggested emergency response teams build relationships with their local veterinarians in order to ensure a vet will be available if needed to help.

Each training event will go from about 8 am to 5 pm. People can register online at

For more information, contact:

Killdeer event: Kirsten Kukla at 701-573-4756 or

Bowman County event: Penny Nester at 701-523-5271 or

Rapid City, Mobridge events: Robin Salverson at 605-374-4177 or

Registration is required to attend.

The training events will help first responders be prepared for livestock accidents. Lisa Pederson | Courtesy photo