Farmers who have to leave their animals due to a disaster, can now register their herds via an AI chatbot called Ema for Animals.
Situate Me, the emergency management crowd-sourcing specialist behind Virtual Disaster Assistant Ema, launched the new animal welfare add-on at the 58th New Zealand Institute of Animal Management conference in Wellington last month.
Livestock owners who are not on the farm, or have to leave when disaster strikes, are able to register their unattended animals with Ema.
Ema takes the farmer through a series of questions to establish species, stock numbers, gender and special needs, as well as any dangerous and anti-social characteristics.
Farmers are also able to give location details of feedlots, water troughs, loading pens and other resources on their farm, which would assist emergency responders when attending to their livestock.
From a cloud-based dashboard, local authorities and government departments who have installed the platform can gauge the scale of the operation in advance of heading into a disaster zone.
Emergency responders can view mapped data to assess the extent of the unattended animal issue and plan how best to prioritise check-ups, feeding, milking, rescue and relocation.
Rob Gourdie, Situate Me's co-founder, said the unattended animal bot, which was a first for the emergency management industry, would transform the animal welfare effort in an emergency situation.
He added that the operational impact of Ema's help for authorities would be huge.
"Ema for Animals captures livestock data at the moment it is actually needed and Ema's questions can be adapted 'on the fly' to gain specific details on behalf of the emergency responders.
"This avoids the overhead of trying to maintain the integrity of a very large set of data over the years, for the day it is finally needed. Experience has shown that confidence in historical data in emergencies is often quite low and often ignored in favour of more immediate ways of gathering data," said Gourdie.
Hundreds of farmers could enter information about affected livestock simultaneously with Ema, and the data would be up-to-the-minute accurate.
"For livestock owners, Ema for Animals fulfils a significant emotional need. The extra stress and anxiety that worrying about livestock and livelihood adds to an emergency situation cannot be underestimated," said Gourdie.
"Importantly, being able to quickly register unattended livestock may prevent concerned animal owners from breaking through cordons and putting themselves in danger in an attempt to reach their animals."
Situate Me said it was now inviting local councils and emergency management groups to evaluate the unattended animal situational awareness tool with a view to including it in their preparedness resources.
Emergency groups, as well as livestock owners, can find out more about the animal welfare resource – which also includes a register specifically for unattended pets – at www.situateme.com/animalwelfare.