How to Safely Transport Cattle

By Emily Folk

The winter weather is finally breaking, and it’s time to start preparing cattle to be transported to summer pastures. The goal is to cause minimal stress on the animals behalf while making sure your cattle stay happy and healthy on their way to their new location. Here’s how to make sure you’re moving your cattle safely.

Make Sure Your Trailer Is Ready.

You want your trailer to be big enough so the number of cattle being transported can fit comfortably. Over-crowding can stress out the animals and makes things difficult. Only load a humane amount of cattle at a time — you can always take a second trip with the rest of the cattle. The trailer should also be in good repair and not worn down at all. Make sure there’s nothing sticking out or falling apart so the cows don’t get injured while being transported.

Trailers and loading ramps should also have floors with suitable traction so as to discourage slips and falls. The trailer should also be thoroughly cleaned out and disinfected after each use to avoid spreading pathogens and disease. This includes removing any remaining manure and hay.

A few days before the transport is scheduled, do an all-over safety check on your trailer. Make sure the tires are all inflated to the proper PSI, and none have holes or cracks. Check the brakes and all lighting on the trailer to ensure turn signals, headlights and necessary functions work properly. All gates and latches should be examined to ensure they’re fully functional, as well as the hitch connection.

Certain cattle require additional requirements as well. Bobby calves, for example, require the front of the trailer to be solid to provide shelter from the wind. Whereas, you need to separate unacquainted bulls to avoid a dominance fight from breaking out.

Take these things into consideration so you can ensure the trailer you have is suitable for the cattle you need to move.

Keep the Animals Calm.

Stressing cattle out and not taking care of them properly during transport can cause injuries or an unhealthy amount of weight loss. Cattle can withstand more than 24 hours straight of travel with minimal food and water in some cases, but never over 30 hours. After that amount of time, the animals can’t shed any more water weight so they begin to shed tissue, which impacts profit down the road.

Try to avoid driving during extreme temperatures or storms as this can stress the animals out. You also want to make sure you’re driving like you know you have extra cargo attached. Don’t make sudden sharp turns or brake quickly unless warranted. Otherwise, they’ll get jostled around and uncomfortable. Additionally, make sure you load animals, in the same trailer, who get along to avoid fights from breaking out.

When you’re loading them, try to do it in a peaceful area away from distracting noises or sights. You want them to be focused on getting into the trailer. Avoid using a cattle prod or any other motivating device unless you absolutely have to. Let the eager cows go first and then worry about stubborn and difficult ones. The mood during loading sets their mood for the rest of the journey.

Make sure you take note of their moods as well. You don’t want an unhappy cow to cause an injury during loading. Know the warning signs and keep your distance if they’re about to snap - one cow can cause the rest to get riled up.

You’re Ready for Transport.

Transportation can be stressful for cattle, but there are ways to make sure it goes smoother for both you and your animals. Thoroughly check out your trailer to make sure all standards are met and use appropriate trailering methods to help keep the animals calm before and during transit. That way, you can make your transport go off without a hitch.

Emily Folk is a sustainability writer and avid gardener. You can read more of her work on her site, Conservation Folks, where she writes about helping tomorrow’s planet today.