All posts by Mark

Handling Livestock Safely

Most transporters know that no matter how gentle an animal may appear, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will continue to act like this while you’re handling them and on the road.  It’s important to understand how all livestock animals think and what their natural behaviors are so that you can be safe when loading, unloading and transporting these animals.

All livestock animals were once a prey of some sort.  All predators have their eyes on the front of their head and have sharp teeth.  All prey have eyes on the sides of their head and have blunt teeth.  You, to a prey animal, are a predator so it is important to remember that when you are handling livestock.

All livestock animals have a point of balance at their shoulder.  When you stand behind their shoulder, it encourages them to move forward.  When you stand in front of the shoulder, they will either stop or they will back away.  Many handlers will make the mistake of standing in front of the shoulders of those animals that they are trying to load.  This is the case with horses often as you try to lead their head into the trailer rather than giving them a driving force from behind.  Groups of cattle or pigs will often move easily into a chute if you don’t stand in front of their shoulder but encourage them from behind.  Because of this, it is often not necessary to prod every animal to get them to the chute and onto a trailer. In fact, if you can stand behind their shoulders and motivate them to move forward they will often move quite easily through a chute and into a trailer without being prodded at all.

All livestock animals also have a “flight zone.”  This is the distance that they feel safe from you and if you move into that space they will move away.  The size of an animal’s flight zone will depend on how tame the animals are.  You can think of this as their “personal bubble.” The size of the flight zone also depends on how excited the animals are, the more excited they are the large the zone becomes.  For cattle, it’s important to remember they are easier to move if they are calm and if they do get excited it will take about 20 to 30 minutes for them to calm down.

If you understand this concept of flight zones and point of balance, you will be much more successful in moving animals and working with them while you are traveling.

Tips for Choosing a Livestock Hauler

The decision to ship livestock is also an important one as you want to make sure that your livestock are shipped safely and securely. Therefore it is important to make sure that you fine a reliable livestock shipper whom you can depend upon to ship your livestock in a safe and secure manner.

When considering livestock shipping companies there are several questions you should ask in order to choose the best shipping company for your needs.

First, always make sure you ask the shipping company whether they have mover insurance. This is absolutely essential. You should also ask the company how things are handled in the even there should be an accident.

Find out whether the company has the proper Department of Transportation permits as well as required licenses in order to be a commercial animal hauler. Keep in mind that it is illegal to ship livestock across state lines without an Interstate Commerce Commission license number.

You should also find out the schedule for your livestock’s journey. Ask the hauler whether they plan to drive straight through or whether there may be a layover in a different location.

In addition ask about the size of the trailers that will be used. How many other animals will be traveling in the same trailer?

Find out as well who exactly will be looking after your livestock during the journey. Does this person have the proper expertise to take care of your livestock?

Always make sure you find out what kinds of information the company as well as the specific driver should have in order to ship your livestock. For example, find out whether you will need to provide copies of health certificates and veterinarian records. To make sure that the journey is as safe and easy as possible for your livestock, you should also make sure that you provide any imperative information about your livestock to the company. For example, if you are planning to ship a horse then you will need to let the company know if the horse is difficult to handle or if he is the nervous type.

You should also find out if you need to provide hay, feed and any other things your livestock may need during the journey. Along those same lines, ask the company directly whether your livestock will have access to water and feed at all times.

Finally, make sure you ask questions about the company’s cancellation and refund policy.

Keeping Your Horse Comfortable on the Road

When you are hauling a horse a long distance, it is very important to make sure that you thoroughly check both the vehicle and the trailer before you ever load your horse to ensure that they are both in good condition and safe for the long ride. Once you have done all of the necessary checks, it is time to think about what your horse will need to stay safe and comfortable on the long trip. One last thing that you will need to get before you leave for your trip is a copy of the horse’s registration papers, health certificate, negative coggins, and transport papers if your state requires them. Once you have all of the paperwork in order, it will be time to prepare your horse for the long trip.

The first thing that you should do is allow them to eat normally before you load them into the trailer. They should also have free access to all of the clean water that they will drink. If you are going on a long road trip, you could hang a hay net or bag full of hay for the horses to nibble on during the trip, however, it is very important to make sure that you hang the bag or net high enough so that it will not get tangled around their legs during travel. You should also take water with you that the horse is used to. Some horses will not drink water that smells or tastes different.

Once you have the hay net properly secured, it is time to load the horses. If your trailer has individual stalls, it is safest to tie each horse in their stall using a quick release knot. When you are tying the knot, you will want to make sure that the rope is loose enough for the horse to touch the butt bar or door behind them. This will prevent them from pulling back on the rope during travel.

Once the horses are loaded, you should leave as quickly as possible and remember to start out slowly so that the horses will be able to adjust to riding in the trailer. When you stop for fuel or to eat, offer the horses water, even though most of the time they probably will not drink. You should also plan to stop once or twice to eat a leisurely meal. This will give the horses a chance to rest.

If you take care to ensure that your horses are comfortable during their ride, you will arrive at your destination with horses that are in wonderful condition.

Safely Loading a Horse

If you have ever been around horses, you have probably seen some very interesting trailer loading scenes. You may have seen people try to bribe their horses with food or you may have seen the two person method where one person pulls on the lead rope while the other person pushes on the rear of the horse. You may also have seen the three person method where two people use a rope at the rear of the horse as a sling while the person inside the trailer tries to pull them in. None of these methods are very effective, and none of them are safe. The only way to get a horse to load well is to practice loading with them.

There are several simple steps that you can follow to teach your horse to load properly. This will ensure that you do not have any of those “trailer loading scenes” and that both you and your horse will be safe.

Step 1 – Show your horse the trailer, open the doors and make sure that everything is safe. It is important to allow your horse to look around so that he will be able to see that he is safe. Once your horse is calm, proceed to step two.

Step 2 – Longe your horse at a walk toward the door of the trailer. You should have your horse stop, back up, and change directions. This will allow him to see the trailer from different views. Once your horse is calm with this exercise, reward him and move on to step three.

Step 3 – With the door open, drive your horse toward the door of the trailer and ask them to stop. You should them drive them by the door and around in a circle and ask them to stop again. You should again reward your horse if they are remaining calm and once they are comfortable with this exercise, move on to step four.

Step 4 – With the door open, drive your horse into the trailer. It is okay if the horse stops and does not go into the trailer. Just be patient and continue to drive them toward the open door and once they are inside, ask them to stand quietly and reward them for doing so. Next you should ask your horse to back out of the trailer. It is important to not let them turn around and come out head first because this is very dangerous. Once your horse has mastered this process, move onto step five.

Step 5 – Now you can begin to ask your horse to stand for long time intervals. The goal is to work up to thirty seconds in five second intervals. Once your horse will do this calmly, they will be ready for their first short ride in the trailer.

Selecting and Caring for Stock before Transport

Transporting livestock can be a very stressful time period for both the owners and the animals. It is very easy for livestock to become stressed. One of the most stressful times on livestock is during the gathering process. The animals that are going to have the most stress during this time are the ones that are not accustomed to being handled, pregnant females, very young or very old animals and there are also certain breeds who just do not handle stressful situations very well. The best thing to reduce the stress in these animals is to allow them to rest for at least 24 hours before they are transported. This will give them an opportunity to calm down and this will also reduce their stress level during transport.

When you are preparing to transport livestock over long distances, they should be gathered and transported to their loading destination as quickly as possible. They should then be allowed to rest and eat and drink plenty of water. This will ensure that they are in good physical condition for the long ride. If you are not able to load your livestock immediately after the resting period, you should make sure that they will have sufficient food and water to maintain them until they are loaded onto the trailer. It is also important that animals are provided shelter. Livestock such as horses, cattle, sheep and goats usually do not require shelter except in extreme weather conditions; however, pigs are very susceptible to temperature stress and they should always be provided with shelter from the heat and a cool supply of drinking water.

When it is time to load the animals, only the ones that are fit and healthy should be loaded for transport. Animals that are sick, injured, weak, or females in the late stages of pregnancy should not be loaded. The only time sick animals should be transported is when they are only traveling a short distance to receive veterinary treatment. It is also important to remember that certain classes of livestock should be transported in different trailers, or if this is not possible, there should be a partition separating the animals. For example, calves should be transported separately from adult cattle, cattle that are greatly different in size should be separated, and adult bulls should always be separated from any other cattle.

If you take good care of your livestock before they are transported, you will greatly reduce their stress and have a healthier animal at the end of the ride.

Special Requirements when Transporting Livestock

It is important to get your livestock to their final destination without any injuries. Everyone knows that injuries are going to happen, but there are some things that you can do to reduce the risk of your livestock being injured during transit.

The first thing that you should do is allow enough room between the animals. Packing of animals either too loosely or too tightly will predispose them to injury. Partitions should be used to reduce the chance of the animals being injured. There should be enough animals within a space to minimize injury while at the same time providing enough space for an animal that is cast to rise with assistance. It is also important to make sure that the animals are properly separated from one another. It is recommended that the following classes be transported separately:

• Polled cattle
• Young calves
• Cow with suckling calf
• Hornless cattle
• Adult bulls
• Cattle that are greatly different in size
• Females in advanced stages of pregnancy

Lactating dairy cows that are in full production and without calves at their side should be milked at intervals not exceeding twenty four hours. When bulls are haltered and tied within the trailer, the head rope should not be fitted through a nose ring. Calves should be strong enough to withstand the stresses of transportation and they should be transported in vehicles with enclosed fronts to prevent wind chill. Newborn calves with wet umbilical cords or calves that weigh less than 50 pounds should not be allowed to travel. Cows that are more than eight months pregnant should not be transported for journeys that are longer than eight hours. Longer journeys will increase the risk of metabolic diseases and injury. All cattle should be offered food and water as soon as possible after they have been unloaded.

• Sheep that differ greatly in size
• Ewes and sucker lambs
• Ewes in advanced stages of pregnancy
• Rams

Newborn lambs and newly shorn sheep are very susceptible to wind chill and should be transported in vehicles with enclosed fronts to protect them from the elements. Ewes that are more than four months pregnant should not be transported on journeys that will take longer than eight hours and they should be offered food and water as soon as possible after they have reached their final destination.

The recommendations for domestic goats are very similar to those that are listed for sheep.

Standards for Transport Vehicles

There are many different ways that livestock can be transported. The most common way is by trailer, but they can also be transported by rail car or plane. It does not matter how you choose to transport your livestock, but what does matter is that the vehicle is safe.

It is important that any transport vehicle be clean before loading livestock. This will help to ensure that your livestock does not get sick by riding in a dirty vehicle where there were sick animals before. There should also be no protrusions or sharp edges on the framework, doorways, floors, or partitions that are capable of injuring the animals. All gates should operate smoothly and retract fully from the animal’s pathway. Gates should not be susceptible to jamming by either the animals or by transit vibrations. All hinges and latches should not project into the animal’s pathway either and all gates should be clearly visible to animals when they are shut. An easy way to achieve this is by providing “sight boards”.

All internal sheeting of the sides of the vehicle should be smooth and also have a large area of contact with the animals to eliminate bruising and pressure points. It is also important that the height deck be tall enough to ensure that the type of animal being transported is able to stand without contacting overhead structures. It is also important that the vehicle has a floor that is constructed out of non-slip material that is easily repaired and that will not injure the legs or hooves of the animals.

If animals are traveling in multi-deck vehicles, the deck structure should be designed to minimize soiling of the animals on the lower decks. The spacing of the side rails should be small enough to prevent the animals from jamming their heads and legs between the rails. If you are using a vehicle that is not completely enclosed, the sides of the vehicle should be high enough to prevent the animals from escaping.

When choosing a vehicle, it is important to make sure that there are sufficient partitions and secure fittings to ensure that the animals are adequately separated and are not overcrowded. It is also important to make sure that the exhaust system of the vehicle is not polluting the air where the animals are riding. There should also be adequate air flow inside the vehicle to keep the animals cool and minimize heat stress.

If you are careful when selecting a vehicle for transport, you will ensure that your animals have the most pleasant ride possible.

Unloading Livestock

If you have been in the livestock business you will know that getting your livestock to their final destination is only part of the process. The next step is to unload them off of the trailer. Careful unloading of livestock is just as important as careful loading and transport. This can often times be a very challenging task because the animals are going to be very stressed at the end of their journey and you want to make sure that the unloading process is very simple so that you will be able to avoid injuries.

It is important to make sure that the opening of the transport vehicle is properly aligned with the unloading ramp. This will ensure that the animals will get safely down the ramp and it will also prevent unwanted bruises on the animals. You also want to encourage the livestock to quietly walk off of the transport vehicle. You do not want to rush the animals because they are already very stressed and if you try to rush them off of the transport vehicle, they are more likely to injure themselves or even someone who is trying to help.

There are several methods that may be employed to encourage the animals to exit the trailer. One of these methods is to use the behavioral characteristics of the animals. Most livestock animals are herd animals and if just a few animals leave the herd, the rest will follow. If you are able to quietly get a few animals to exit the trailer, the remaining animals will usually follow. You may also use “flappers” or “metallic rattles”. Both of these devices are ideal because they will encourage the animals to move out of the trailer in response to sound. This will allow the animals to quietly move away from the sound without getting into a panic.

It is very important to unload livestock off of the transport vehicles as quickly as possible. The sooner that they are out of the trailer, the sooner they will calm down. All livestock animals should be given immediate access to water once they are unloaded. Many animals will be dehydrated and the sooner that they are able to drink, the better off they will be. If the animals are going to be held in the yards for more than 24 hours before being transported to their final destination, they should also be provided with food as well as water.

Length of the Journey and Rest Stops

It is a well known fact that transporting livestock is a very stressful experience. Some of the stresses that livestock will experience are due to loading, unloading, climate changes, unfamiliar sights and sounds, and the length of time that they are traveling. Many haulers think that allowing the animals to rest during travel will reduce their stress and make the hauling process much easier on them, but this is not always the case.

Rest stops will extend the total time of the journey and it will also expose the animals to more unfamiliar sights and sounds. The process of unloading and reloading the animals will also cause them to have more stress and increases the risk of them being injured. Sometimes it is more beneficial to the animal to continue the journey rather than stopping; however, if the journey is extremely long, the animals should be given a rest period before continuing on.

After each 24 hours of travel, a rest period of between twelve and twenty four hours should be provided for all young ruminant animals. If a full twenty four hour rest period is given, the travel period for these animals may be extended to thirty six hours. If you are hauling mature ruminant animals, a rest period of twelve to twenty four hours should be provided after every thirty six hours of travel. If a full twenty four hour rest period is provided, then the total travel time may be extended to forty eight hours.

When the animals are unloaded for the rest period, they should have access to both food and water and have enough space available to rest and exercise. Animals that are transported in small groups and are fed and watered in transit should be unloaded and exercised every thirty six hours if there is not room in the vehicle for them to lie down.

It is important to complete all journeys that involve animals as quickly as possible, but they should be within the limits imposed by rest stops and road safety. A great amount of care should be taken to avoid prolonged deprivation of feed and water when animals are unloaded after being transported and then reloaded for a further journey. This time period should not exceed twenty four hours, and if it does, special arrangements should be made to feed and water the animals while they are in the holding area. This sequence of events is most commonly seen with animals that are transported to sale yards and then transported to the property of the new owners.

Ways to Reduce Stress When Transporting Pigs

The journey that pigs take from the producer’s farm to the processing plant can be very hard and stressful. If the proper steps are not taken, significant quality can be lost and some pigs may even die during transport. If the proper steps are taken, transporters will be able to reduce the amount of stress on pigs and they will be in much better condition when they reach their final destination.

There have been several studies performed at different farms and the findings of these studies suggest that there are several practices that can be used that would reduce the stress that pigs suffer during travel. One of these findings is that pigs are afraid of shadows and they are much more comfortable traveling with other pigs that they are familiar with. Farmers are encouraged to transport pigs in the same groups that they have been housed in so that they will be more comfortable during travel. Another cause of stress is the process of loading and unloading, so it is recommended to minimize the use of assembly yards and electrical prods when possible.

Transport stress is seen more often during the summer months than any other time of the year. The combination of high temperatures and motion sickness can greatly increase the stress in pigs which can cause meat that is pale and soft or it can be dry and firm. If the stress level is too high, it can even be fatal. The stress that pigs have often begins when they are moved out of the barns and pens. One way to reduce the stress of moving is to eliminate narrow hallways and right angled corners that will slow the pigs movement. It is also important to have a ramp incline that is not steeper than 25 degrees. Anything that is steeper than this will be perceived as a wall from a pig’s point of view.

It is also important to keep pigs cool once they have been loaded into the transport vehicle. Pigs are very susceptible to heat stress and must be kept cool to maintain their health and good condition during transport. If it is possible, the transport vehicle should be bedded down with wet sand to keep the pigs cool during transport. You do not want to use any other type of bedding because it can actually trap heat inside the transport vehicle and increase the pig’s stress instead of decreasing it.