The phone jarred Ken Powell awake. Groggy and disoriented, he glanced at the clock while fumbling with the receiver: midway between midnight and one a.m.

From past experiences as an environmental scientist for the Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment’s Bureau of Waste Management, he knew there were only two types of phone calls at that time of night-wrong numbers and emergencies. This was an emergency.

The caller was from a turkey facility in Cherokee County. Sometime that evening a power failure had stilled the fans and now the facility had thousands upon thousands of dead birds to contend with. Compounding the problem was a string of triple-digit heat indexes that barely dipped below the mid-eighties at night. Carcasses were already starting to rot. There was absolutely no way to get that many birds to the rendering plant, and the operations manager was frantic.

No problem, Powell told the manager. He could start burying the birds immediately and Powell would contact him in the morning with the necessary paperwork.

The catastrophic kill-off was bad enough, but it would have been much worse if not for a voluntary program administered by the Bureau of Waste Management to identify and designate pre-selected emergency disposal sites for livestock operations. Without that clearance, Powell would have had to inspect the site before disposal could begin, squandering critical time. Instead, the facility had a site already selected and was able to begin disposal immediately, and Powell was able to go back to sleep.

“It sure does make a difference if there’s an emergency,” Powell said. “Death losses can be managed in a timely manner by having disposal sites selected in advance.”

When every minute counts, proper planning can make, or break, a livestock operation if disaster strikes. Having a pre-selected site for carcass disposal is just one facet of emergency preparedness. Others include risk management for animal disease outbreaks, the use of windbreaks for winter livestock protection, and others. Last year’s freak blizzard that struck South Dakota killed tens of thousands of cattle and left producers scrambling to recover as well as dispose of the bodies.

Planning for such disasters will be the focus of two upcoming workshops on emergency preparedness for livestock operations. They will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 10, at K-State Salina’s College Campus Center, and on Thursday, Dec. 11 at the Lane County 4-H Building in Dighton. Both events begin at 9:30 a.m. and adjourn at 2:30 p.m.

Guest speakers include Dr. Joel DeRouchey, K-State University Extension Animal Science Dept.; Dr. Charles Barden, K-State University Extension Forestry Dept.; Todd Barrows, Kansas Farm Service Agency Ag Program Specialist; Dr. William Brown, Kansas Animal Health Commissioner; Dr. Pat Murphy, K-State University Agricultural Engineering Department; and Ken Powell, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Bureau of Waste Management.

Topics include risk management and mortality documentation for livestock producers, reaction and response to a high infectious disease outbreak, windbreaks for winter livestock protection, approved mortality disposal options for Kansas producers, pre-selection of emergency disposal sites for large and small livestock operations and personal preparations for operational emergencies.

“Producers need to have an idea about how they’ll handle specific cases of high mortality loss,” said Dr. Joel DeRouchey. “While those occurrences are rare, they do happen. Believing they will never happen to you isn’t the correct approach. We’re always optimists, but knowing what to do during or immediately after a large number of mortalities is critical.Having a plan in place that can be communicated quickly and effectively right away can mitigate the situation.”

Registrations can be made online at AmazingGrazingKansas.com by clicking on the Events link. Be sure to register for the location you will be attending. Preregistration costs $15 per participant and must be received by Dec. 5.

Amazing Grazing is a collaboration of the Kansas Farmers Union and the Kansas Graziers Association with funding from the North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Project partners include: KSRE, Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition, Frontier Farm Credit, NRCS-Kansas, and Kansas Center for Sustainable Ag and Alternative Crops.