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Farmers can suffer Post Traumatic Syndrome too

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

Post Traumatic Syndrome and grieving isn’t something we usually associate with farm animal tragedies. But for those who have been through a tragic loss of livestock or poultry, it is something very real.  I know from personal experience- having run a farmer helpline in the early 1980’s, that emotional support is an important part of the rebuilding process.

Last month a devastating barn fire gained national attention.  The Alberta egg farm lost a reported 30,000 laying hens in the afternoon blaze which had consumed the barn even before fire crews arrived. The cause is still under investigation and the farm plans to re-build. But while media and animal activists focused on the lost hens little attention was paid to the suffering of the farm family members themselves.

Farms do face mass animal losses from time to time.  Barn fires, flash floods, tornadoes, or disease outbreaks requiring herd or flock destruction can have lasting psychological affects. Not only on the farm owners but also on first responders and clean up crews.

There are a good array of “How to” materials now available for disaster preparedness and prevention as well as how to deal with the aftermath of such events. For example, the provincial Farm Animal Councils have an assortment of livestock emergency fact sheets and information materials. Topics include barn fires and livestock transport accidents. Provincial departments of agriculture also have information sheets as do other farm groups.

But much like the media and animal activists, these resources seem to miss the human element.  Fortunately there are support services available that distressed farmers can turn to.

Two good sources for locating distress centres and resources are Agriculture and Agri-food Canada at:

and the Canadian Farm Business Management Council at

Some of these counseling centres are farmer specific such as the Saskatchewan Farm Stress Line and the Manitoba Farm and Rural Stress Line where counsellors are farmers themselves and who understand today’s farming challenges. They know what it’s like to lose an animal or experience a crop failure. All centres offer free, confidential counselling and referral services. They can provide the support needed by farmers dealing with the emotional affects of such tragic losses; affects that are too often overlooked.

Until the Next Blog


Posted by OFAC on July 11th, 2011 :: Filed under Activism,Barn fires,Farm life,Media
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