The number of calls to Alberta Farm Animal Care last year was significantly higher than the year before, thanks to an increased awareness to the AFAC livestock care alert line that allows the public to make anonymous phone calls when they suspect neglect or distress.
Kristen Lepp, communications coordinator for Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) said that in 2017, there were 64 calls to the alert line. In 2018, that number had jumped considerably to 161.
“We think that the increase is because of the growing awareness about the program and not an increase in cases,” said Lepp.
The 24/7 livestock care alert line (1-800-506-2273) is available for anybody concerned that livestock may be neglected or in distress, see livestock that are in an emergency situation, or have a question about livestock care.
Lepp pointed out however that if livestock are seen on the wrong side of the fence or along a roadway, a call should be made to the local RCMP detachment.
The alert line is also available to producers who are in need of assistance or support in caring for their own livestock.
AFAC relies on volunteers if they receive a call of concern and works closely with the Alberta SPCA.
“Generally, it’s mostly producers and agricultural fieldmen who are close enough where they can do a drive-by and check on the animals,” she said.
AFAC was started in 1993 when members of the livestock industry requested a producer-driven animal health care program and over the years has become the voice for the industry on livestock welfare matters.
Producers can also call the alert line if they are in need of an emergency livestock handling equipment trailer and there are a number of them housed at various municipalities and fire halls around the province.
In 2012, AFAC received a grant from Growing Forward for a trailer that went to Red Deer County. Today, there are 18 trailers located throughout the province, including one specifically for the Alberta SPCA. In southern Alberta, Cypress County, Special Areas No. 2, County of Paintearth, County of Newell, MD of Taber, Lethbridge County, MD of Foothhill, and MD of Willow Creek all have an emergency livestock handling equipment trailer.
Alberta is the most equipped province in the country when it comes to livestock emergencies.
The trailers have primarily been used for event such as catching strays, motor vehicle breakdowns, and fires. In the last year, trailers were used 20 times; 10 time for cattle liner roll-overs, three times for stock trailers, twice for loose livestock, and twice for livestock being stuck in water or mud.
Lepp pointed out that each trailer will be equipped a bit different, depending on the situation and there must be at least one trailer operator who has received livestock behaviour training that includes how to deal with livestock in emergency situations.