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New Animal Welfare Solution for Livestock

5th September 2019

New Animal Welfare Solution Enables Quick Reporting of Unattended Livestock by Farmers in an Emergency

Situate Me, the emergency management crowd sourcing specialist, behind compassionate Virtual Disaster Assistant, Ema, has launched a new animal welfare add-on that allows farmers and lifestylers to register animals left unattended in an emergency.

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 conversational questions to establish species, stock numbers, gender, 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 re-location.

Rob Gourdie, Situate Me’s co-founder, says the unattended animal bot (a first for the emergency management industry) will transform the animal welfare effort in an emergency situation. He adds that the operational impact of Ema’s help for authorities will 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.”

With Ema, hundreds, even thousands, of farmers can enter information about affected livestock simultaneously; with the data being 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. 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 launched the Unattended Animal Registration Bot (‘Ema for Animals’) at the 58th New Zealand Institute of Animal Management conference held in Wellington, last week.

Situate Me is 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

Situate Me was formed at a New Zealand Defence Force sponsored Start-up Weekend in Wellington in July 2018. With a focus on humanitarian aid and disaster relief, the workshop guided the Situate Me team (made up of experienced emergency management practitioners, specialist user-experience designers and data scientists), through the development of their project. After 52 hours, the team - several of whom experienced the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch - pitched their idea of a Virtual Disaster Assistant, Ema, to the judges and came first. In June this year, funds of $60,000 were secured from the Westpac NZ Government Innovation Fund to pilot Ema. Contracts for a pilot with a large regional authority are currently being discussed.

For more information about the Situate Me information platform visit, and follow and

Unattended Livestock Case Scenario:
Bob and Janet

A lack of rain over winter and an extremely dry summer whipped up by the unforgiving Nor’westers that cut across the plains has left Bob and Janet’s farmland dangerously dry.

A loose spark from farm machinery starts a fire which quickly establishes itself across a wide front, fanned by the 40kmh dry wind. Rural Fire and other emergency services are quickly on the scene, but the wind picks up again later in the afternoon, gusting at 70kmh. The fire is outpacing the response effort and escalates quickly.

A general evacuation order is imposed with police driving to rural properties. They give the occupants five minutes to leave – or face arrest – with whatever they can gather. There’s no time for mucking around.

Bob and Janet farm a dairy herd of 200 cows on a 75 hectare farm. In addition to the covers they have two prize bulls, 20 head of sheep, 15 chickens, four farm dogs and a horse.

Luckily Janet has kept all their critical documents in a fireproof container ready to go. The couple are ready to leave but, distressingly, they have no time to check on any of their animals.

Meet Ema

Once safely out of the cordon, Bob and Janet head to Bob’s brother’s house in town.

They know they are safe and understand the emergency response is completely committed to fighting the fire and preserving human life but they are worried sick about the animals. Bob is extremely agitated – one of his cows has mastitis and needs regular attention.

At this point Bob & Janet need two things:

To do something; to be able to tell someone about the animals.

To find someone who will check on their animals, feed and water them and move them out of danger.

Bob pulls out his mobile phone and goes onto the rural fire website. He is immediately greeted by Ema, the Virtual Disaster Assistant. Ema guides Bob to ‘Ema for Animals’ where he can register his livestock and his pets.

Bob gets to work entering his details and identifying his livestock – breeds, stock numbers and location. He feels good that he is doing something. Bob is able to pull up a map on his phone and drop a pin in the right paddocks, giving the exact locations of his animals. He’s also able to identify where the water troughs, feed lots and loading pens are on his farm. This is great information for emergency responders, since they can make an informed decision about moving the animals closer to water and food and identify the best place for loading, should the animals have to be relocated.

When Bob has finished, Ema provides him with a registration number he can use to check back into the site for updates.

Steve, Local Animal Welfare Officer

Back at the Emergency Operations Centre/Fire Gold Command, Steve, the officer responsible for animal welfare, has his intelligence dashboard live in front of him. From the geo-mapped data he is able to ascertain the size and nature of the unattended livestock task.

Steve decides the response should be in two phases:

First, a visit all unattended livestock in the area of operations and ensure that have access to water and feed. Assess evacuation options depending on the direction and speed of the wind and the fire.

Then, as required, herd livestock to strategic transport points where there are loading pens and arrange a fleet of stock trucks (now being assembled on standby) to respond if the animal evacuation order is given. If necessary, open gates and remove fences to create escape routes for all other animals,

Jeff and Mark, farm hands and volunteers

While Steve is planning the best approach, Jeff and Mark, two local farm hands from a neighbouring town, have volunteered to assist with animal welfare.

Sitting in their truck, they are tasked by Steve back at Gold Command to pick up Jennie, a vet, and proceed to the Bob & Janet’s farm to check on the livestock welfare.

The longer the team stay in the fire cordon, the greater the risk for them. This means they have to work quickly. Fortunately, Steve is able to give them precise instructions based on the data collected by Ema.

The team is quickly able to locate and identify the different herds, including the cow with mastitis, and work out a plan for shifting stock to where there is feed and water.

Finding the animals, water troughs and feedlots exactly where they expected to find them, the team is now able to focus on checking the state of the animals. They also use their time to consider any further courses of action that might be necessary – should the fire front swing and place Bob and Janet’s farm in its path.

Once they have finished their checks, Jeff logs into the Ema dashboard and updates Bob and Janet’s file.

Back to Bob and Janet

Bob has been pacing the floor worrying about the farm but he has taken comfort in being able to regularly check back with Ema to see where the emergency response team is at.

Bob is relieved to see Jeff’s status update and quickly tells Janet the news that the animals have been checked, fed and watered – and that No.5542’s mastitis has been treated by Jennie. He is also able to reassure Jennie that should the threat of the fire worsen, the response team have a plan in place to relocate the animals.


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