The call comes early in the morning. Local emergency responders have requested assistance with an accident involving a livestock trailer. A team of Iowa State veterinarians and students is dispatched to the scene.
The team doesn't have a catchy name. In fact, it doesn't have a name at all, but local and county emergency responders know who they are and how to reach them.
Iowa State University's Veterinary Field Services unit at the College of Veterinary Medicine receives several calls for assistance every year, and each situation is different. The unit assists when livestock trailers have been stuck in snowstorms or have been involved in an accident, and when trailers have mechanical difficulties with animals on board.
"Responding to these types of calls is an important part of our mission to serve the community," says Dr. Pat Gorden, director of
Veterinary Field Services
. Once the call comes in, field services staff will coordinate the mobile response team from Iowa State.
"If the emergency involves cattle, then we send a team appropriate for cattle," Gorden says.
In these situations, time is of the essence.
Riding along with the veterinarians
on the calls are veterinary students. The response serves as valuable, real-life training for
students who may encounter similar situations in their own communities after they graduate.
"The magnitude and sense of urgency of a livestock accident involving many animals on an interstate or highway can't be recreated in the classroom," Karriker said. "The students also see how the different emergency agency personnel and Iowa State all work together. No one is a specialist in trailer accidents."
There are no standard operating procedures for dealing with livestock rollover accidents. To address this issue, VDPAM personnel have worked to develop a plan of action. This plan includes guidance on securing the scene of an accident, equipment needs, relocation of surviving animals, and responder safety.
Everyone on the scene provides different resources. Firefighters bring specialized equipment to open areas of a trailer for easier access to injured animals, whereas veterinarians have the training and expertise to safely offload stressed animals and tend to those that may be stuck or injured.
"At the end of the day, it's all about working together for the well-being of the people and animals involved," Gorden said.
Veterinarians and first responders offloading cattle from a rollover accident.