Multi-agency emergency livestock incident training held July 23-24


Aug. 2, 2018
Media Contact:
Kristie Garcia, Public Information Officer,
New Mexico Department of Agriculture

Federal, state, local agencies participated in emergency livestock incident training last week

 (ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO)It’s not every day you see an aircraft carrying 200 cows land at the Albuquerque International Sunport. But it could happen.

And if it does happen, the New Mexico Agriculture Livestock Incident Response Team (ALIRT) is ready to respond.

Federal, state and local agencies came together in Albuquerque July 23 and 24 to host an animal husbandry and biosecurity exercise. This was to prepare respondents for a potential emergency incident involving livestock in New Mexico. The full-scale emergency exercise tested Emergency Support Function (ESF) #11. That is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s support function related to agriculture and natural resources.

Individuals from the state, as well as Washington D.C., played major roles in the planning and execution of the exercise. Professionals from the following agencies participated:

  • Albuquerque Fire Rescue
  • Albuquerque International Sunport
  • Albuquerque Police Department
  • Bernalillo County
  • EXPO New Mexico
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • New Mexico Department of Agriculture
  • New Mexico Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • New Mexico Livestock Board
  • New Mexico National Guard
  • New Mexico State University (Extension Veterinarian, Veterinarian and Southwest Border Food Protection and Emergency Preparedness Center)
  • Transportation Security Administration
  • S. Customs and Border Protection

New Mexico ALIRT is a group of trained New Mexico-practicing veterinarians who respond to livestock disease outbreaks statewide. Each year ALIRT members train for potential animal disease and for the proper usage of personal protective equipment.

On the morning of July 24, the livestock emergency simulation began with a call from the Albuquerque International Sunport tower. This indicated that a long-haul cattle transport developed mechanical problems and needed an emergency landing in Albuquerque.

While there were no actual cows during the exercise, emergency respondents needed to make quick decisions throughout the day. They had to do this knowing it would take at least 48 hours to repair the plane. Decisions had to be made about the following:

  • Who would inspect the 200 pregnant cows?
  • Where would the cattle temporarily be held?
  • How would the cattle be transported?
  • What steps would be taken when the cows showed signs of illness?

On top of those decisions, the exercise included several scenarios. These included cows running loose on the tarmac, a stow-away discovered in the airplane, and more. Another incident involved protesters obstructing the cattle transport pathway. There was also a large 4-H event taking place at EXPO New Mexico during the arrival of the cows.

Kelly Hamilton, NMDA Agriculture Biosecurity Coordinator, said the experience demonstrated the ability for various agencies to work together.

“This exercise showed the level of communication and coordination possible between local, state and federal entities,” said Hamilton.

The New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management funded the exercise. This is fully compliant with all of the stages of the Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program requirements.

The NMSU Extension Veterinarian and the NMDA Veterinary Diagnostic Services director work closely to keep ALIRT ready to respond. The veterinarians coordinate trainings with the NMSU Southwest Border Food Protection and Emergency Preparedness Center.

Dr. Tim Hanosh, NMDA’s VDS Director, said New Mexico ALIRT continuously proves its importance for the agriculture community.

“The ALIRT veterinarians are a group of practitioners, strategically located throughout the state. They have been trained to respond to unusual livestock situations,” said Hanosh. “Regular trainings are paramount to the success of the program. They not only sharpen our skills, they give us opportunities to interact with multiple local, state and federal agencies. Each agency may be a significant resource during an actual emergency.”

The ESF #11 and the New Mexico ALIRT went into action in a real-life situation just hours after the training exercise. On the afternoon of Wednesday, July 25, a semitruck hauling 155 pigs was stopped by New Mexico State Police. The semitruck was stopped by the officer on I-40 in Albuquerque. To avoid overheating, the pigs were transported to EXPO New Mexico. Emergency respondents included the State Police, New Mexico Livestock Board, Albuquerque Fire Department and NMDA.

Whether there are cows on an airplane or pigs on a semitruck, New Mexico ALIRT is ready to respond.

– NMDA –