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Bovine Emergency Response Plan (BERP)

Dairies and cattlemen transport calves, cows and bulls routinely. Ensuring that trailers are properly prepared for transport no matter how short the distance helps stockmen be efficient and promote animal well-being while ensuring human safety. One important way to be prepared during transportation emergencies is to consider the Bovine Emergency Response Plan (BERP) curriculum.

What is BERP?

“The scene of the accident is not the place to build your team,” is the overriding tenet for the BERP training program targeted toward first responders. Understanding the issues present in incidents involving bovines or other large animals allows emergency response teams to develop a framework among all local law enforcement, first responders, and emergency management personnel to more appropriately address cattle transport vehicle accidents.

The BERP curriculum provides a valuable outline of each step in responding to a cattle transport vehicle accident, from initial phone call through the debriefing process of all persons involved. Important documents include a nationally-recognized comprehensive written plan, Emergency Contact Sheet* for county emergency personnel, Animal Transport Incident Assessment*, and Classes of Cattle*. Let’s think about how a dairy farm or cattleman can ensure its employees are well-prepared if an accident would occur involving cattle being transported.

5 Items for Your Farm Transport Emergency Plan

Planning for the worst isn’t any fun, but it makes the difference between chaos and orderly responding to emergency situations. Let’s look at the basic items a dairy or cattleman should have in place and keep updated to be fully prepared for a transportation accident.

  1. Emergency Contact Sheet*: This form should list people that need to be contacted, in the order they need to be called. The list should include: farm manager/herdsman at all farm sights; owner; company/farm human resource person; farm veterinarian; insurance companies for all of the following: employee (if on farm policy), truck, trailer, and cattle. Lastly, contact info for rendering services in your area could be included. Keep in mind that rendering services do not service all parts of South Dakota, so consider your typical transport routes and talk with county emergency management personnel or fellow livestock producers along the route for other mortality disposal options. Since many transportation accidents happen outside of typical business hours, be sure to include after hour phone numbers for all contacts.
  2. Insurance Policies (vehicle, trailer, livestock): Most people know to keep their vehicle insurance card in the glove box, however the company that insures the vehicle may not be the same company that insures the trailer or cattle being transported. This information should also be noted on the Emergency Contact Sheet. Get in the habit of leaving a copy of all current insurance cards in each vehicle used to haul cattle. It is also wise to review the written policy regarding cattle deaths or euthanasia during a transportation accident. Some companies may specify who must perform a euthanasia on the animals in order for the animal to be covered under the insurance policy.
  3. Bill of Lading* (or relocation form between farm sites): It makes sense to create a bill of lading when buying or selling cattle. However, do you create a simple document when transporting cows between farm sites or distant pastures? This can be very simple and includes the basic information found on a Bill of Lading and states the barn or pasture from which the animal came from and the site the animal is going to along with signatures of each person loading, transporting, and receiving the animals. It is important to include a description of the animals being transported (pregnant cows, weaned calves, bulls), especially noting the location within the trailer of sensitive animals that may need additional care or handling. If your farm routinely uses a contracted commercial trucker, provide as much information as possible; including a loading diagram may be beneficial during emergency extrications from a trailer that overturns. An example form used in the swine industry by truckers is provided.
  4. Emergency Kit (in every truck): A basic emergency kit should include: spare tire(s), jack capable of lifting loaded trailer, tire iron, orange caution triangles/cones, flashlights with batteries, and a camera (optional). Winter weather means additional human safety items should be added to the kit, such as shovel, jumper cables, sand/kitty litter, blankets, gloves, hats, coveralls, and jackets.
  5. Farm Employee Trainings: Emergency preparedness is only as good as the communication between owners, managers, and the employees. When appropriate, involve employees in the process of creating the farm’s emergency preparedness plan. This ensures all persons understand the importance of knowing the exact process carried out for a transportation accident involving cattle. Once documents are established for the farm and any related off-farm facilities, meet with all employees involved in loading, hauling, or receiving cattle to review the expectations. Additionally, it could be beneficial to have mock emergency trainings to practice the chain of phone calls or responding to a stranded trailer loaded with cattle. Discuss the location of various equipment (trailers, panels, etc.) to be used in an emergency response.

The Bottom Line

Dairies and cattlemen transport all ages of animals on a routine basis. Creating a written transportation emergency response plan for your farm or ranch can improve the overall experience when accidents involve cattle during transport.

To learn more or to discuss interest in hosting a Bovine Emergency Response Plan (BERP) training for first responders and emergency management personnel in South Dakota, please contact Heidi Carroll.

Fig. 1. Emergency Contact Sheet*
Fig 2. Animal Transport
Incident Assessment*

Fig. 3. Classes of Cattle*

Fig. 4. Bill of Landing


*Information courtesy of the National Bovine Emergency Response Plan and ICS manual (2016).

Reference: Pederson, L., C. Stoltenow, C. Lane, J. Shearer, D. Workman, and J. Yates. 2016. National Bovine Emergency Response Plan and ICS manual.

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