By: Marcus Jackson, The (Champaign) News-Gazette
For Jan Allen, last week's highway accident that put nearly 100 feeder calves in jeopardy was nothing new.
It was the fourth mishap involving animals in the last year that Rantoul Foods' livestock-procurement manager responded to.
"Just like any other emergency, if it had been a bus, you look around, check to see if the driver is OK, and any passengers," Allen said. "When I got out there, I could see the driver (Scott Lundeen), talked to him for just a moment to make sure he was OK and didn't need to sit down because he had a concussion or something like that."
Thanks to the quick work of Allen, University of Illinois veterinarian Jim Lowe and other first-responders, only 17 of the calves died.
As soon as she was notified of the rollover involving a semitrailer bound for an Iowa farm, Allen phoned her husband and son to come out to Interstate 57 near the Rantoul, Ill. interchange with trailers. Allen, who has dealt with livestock while growing up in Mahomet and now on her family farm in Homer, realized the severity of the situation.
Euthanizing the animals involved Lowe, who made the 20-mile trip from UI Vet Med to help out. Depending on the time of day, the livestock veterinarian on duty is the one who heads out.
"I drew the short straw (Thursday) and was available," Lowe said.
Lowe, who arrived at the UI last fall, is a 21-year practicing veterinarian. He said he's been involved in close to 40 of these type of accidents involving trucks and livestock.
"If you've got a few gray hairs, you learn how to deal with those as a livestock veterinarian," he said.
Lowe's first order of business: touch base with the firefighters and emergency personnel, check the doors of the trailer, get them open and make sure no livestock get loose on the road.
"People can get killed so that's the top priority," he said.
Then it's on to identifying the injuries to the animals.
"Not everyone would have the expertise or equipment to euthanize something," Allen said. "There's a special piece of equipment we have here to euthanize animals with and it's the same thing the UI has."
If the equipment to euthanize isn't available, the firearms of the officers on the scene can be used, though only in a dire situations.
"Those are so high caliber that there's opportunity for error — the bullets would go right though them," Allen said. "In a close situation like we were in (Thursday), there's an opportunity for ricochet, so we would never use those."
The partnership between the local livestock professionals like Allen and veterinarians is typically a friendly one.
"Local livestock producers are fantastic and that's who was there (Thursday)," Lowe said. "We'll get trailers and people and it's kind of an all-hands-on-deck problem. It just takes a lot of people to make it work."
The calls have come far too often, but Lowe is always ready to spring into action.
"You kind of drop what you're doing at the time and you just go out there and do what needs to be done," he said.