Tag Archives: Livestock Hauling

Types of Horse Transportation

Photo by Luis Tamayo

Horse transportation comes in a variety of services and providers.  Some specialize in race or show horses.  In order to legally transport those specialty horses, these providers must have specific insurance and licensing.  Some providers specialize in local transport, while others offer international transportation services.  What is the right type for you?

  1. Local transport.  Local transport can be anything from a ‘taxi’ service to and from the vet, or shipping a horse from a seller to its new owner in a nearby town.  While the same considerations for your horse’s health and safety should be taken, shorter trips can require slightly less advance preparation and may or may not require health certificates and brand certificates if the trip won’t change states.
  2. Interstate transport.  Interstate transport services typically follow a schedule.  The schedule can be daily, weekly, or bi-weekly and service a geographic area including multiple states.  For instance, a Northwest provider might service Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.  While these trips may be relatively short – from a few hours to a day or two – the preparation and paperwork requirements are similar to those of longer distance hauling.  Be ready to provide health, brand, and Coggins test certificates for your hauler.
  3. National transport.  Because of the wide area that is serviced by national transport services, their schedules tend to be weekly or bi-weekly.  National transport service requires greater preparation and planning.  Shipping your horse for further distances will require more paperwork too.  Work closely with your national transportation service to determine the paperwork required.  Plan this type of transportation well in advance to provide enough time for certifications, vaccinations, dietary changes, and scheduling.
  4. International transport.  International transport services provide shipping of your equine to different countries.  Any time your horse is transported to or by way of another country, travel requirements can be more complicated.  For instance, transporting your horse to Canada (or through Canada to Alaska) requires that any packaged feed or medication be in unopened packages.  International transport schedules vary depending on destination and service type.

All of the above types of transport are available for show or race horses.  Show and race horse haulers require specific licenses, which can be verified with http://safer.fmcsa.dot.gov/CompanySnapshot.aspx.

In all instances, the general guidelines for finding a transport service apply: verify credentials, check references, and prepare in advance to assure the safest experience for your horse.

Returning to Basics – Safety Begins Before the Key is turned

Whether you have hauled animals for years or are new to hauling it pays to keep the basics in mind. It doesn’t matter if you’re hauling cattle to the next state, horses to a show, pigs to market or sheep and goats to sales these basics can help save money, time and animals.

This can boil down to 7 check points and 5 considerations which, if done every time you slide into the rig, can reduce the problems and increase the safety.

Check lights: Make sure headlights, tail lights, turn signals, running lights and brake lights are working. This might be as simple as a loose connection or a blown light but checking these things, and repairing if needed as soon as possible, makes for a safer time on the road.

Check brakes: Make sure brakes and emergency brakes are in working order every time. With a load behind you pushing the brakes are critical. Don’t risk your safety or that of the load by neglecting the brakes.

Check hitch, chains: This can take just a moment but it’s not unheard of for a hitch to come loose, with disastrous results. If you have stopped for fuel or a meal or even just for a short break always check before you take off.

Check door: This seems obvious but having seen a livestock trailer with horses inside and the sliding door open perhaps it’s not! Again – any time you stop gives activists or pranksters a chance to release the latch on the door. Make sure it’s secured every time.

Check tires: Check tires regularly for wear and for damage. Sometimes a bad tire with pieces missing or damage to it can be replaced before it leaves you stranded along the highway with a loaded trailer.

Check animals: This is easier with a handful of animals than a semi-trailer, but take a peek at the animals. If there are injuries give the receiving end warning or deal with the situation there, depending on the situation. Make sure the animals are comfortable as much as can be during transport.

Check attitude: We cannot change other drivers but can change how we approach it. We don’t know who or what that other driver is. It may be a tired single mom heading home after working 12 hours but it might also be someone who is reckless and has less regard for you than the animals you’re hauling. Use safety precautions, be rested and alert and remember that your load is alive and shifts much differently than ‘dead weight’ tied down.

Consider weather: Snowy, sunny (especially driving into the sun), hot and cold can all make a difference not only in the road conditions but the comfort and safety of the animals aboard.

Consider temperature: Very hot or very cold temperatures can affect the animals on board. In hot weather don’t rely on moving in order to maintain a safe temperature for the animals you have on. Pigs, for example, cannot tolerate heat and often are hauled at night for this reason.

Consider distance: While there are many safety issues the same whether you’re driving 100 miles or 1000 there are generally longer days with longer trips. Consider whether at any point you will need to unload animals to rest and drink and where that would best be done.

Consider animals: Keeping the animals safe in transport is important for them to arrive in good condition. With horses use extra care in hauling stallions especially if mares are also on board. With fuel and transportation costs there sometimes can be a conflict between getting as many as possible on board with not overcrowding or endangering the animals on board. Animals that are pressed in so tightly they can’t stand normally often mean the possibility of animals falling and getting trampled.

Consider documentation: Have a dashboard camera, a good digital camera and accurate records that are kept up to date. Keep equipment maintained and document it. Keep documentation of how many shipped, how many arrived safely and other factors that establishes a good record as well as pointing out in what areas you need to improve.

These things take but a couple minutes to do but can save you time and money. Be safe!

Tips for Loading Donkeys

DonkeysHorses aren’t the only equines that need to be transported from place to place.  Donkeys are often hauled whether it is across the country or to a local show.  However, few transporters take into consideration the special attention that donkeys require.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that you can’t rush a donkey.  If you try to hurry along a hesitant donkey, you’re only asking for trouble.  Most of the tricks that work well on a stubborn horse do nothing on a stubborn donkey.  The best method that works for a donkey is a long lead rope that will reach a secure ring located in the front of the trailer.

Before asking a donkey to enter a trailer, run the end of the rope through the ring.  This is typically a two person job, as one person needs to keep the donkey from backing up when the other asks it to load.

Remember, donkeys are very strong and when they decide to go back, they’re going back and you can’t hold them without a wrap or two around the ring with the lead rope.  This is a slow process, but as long as you don’t allow them to back away at all they will begin to figure out that they don’t have very many options.  Many donkeys will load this way without any fussing.

A common problem when loading a donkey is that they may decide to enter the trailer with their front feet and then freeze.  This can be frustrating because you know they’re almost there, just two more feet to go.  However, don’t make a big deal out of it.  Just move around in a very relaxed manner.  Avoid opening dividers or doors, as this can cause them to become uneasy and then they definitely won’t enter the trailer.  They will simply become suspicious of you and the trailer.

Try to avoid using food as a bribe for loading into the trailer, but there is nothing wrong with a little treat after they have successfully loaded.  However, if you do have a donkey that seems to be motivated by food and you don’t really know the donkey and he doesn’t know you, then a little alfalfa or grain may be a good tool for developing trust between you and the donkey.

Finally, remember that patience is key.  It’s also a good idea to make the trailer an inviting place to be by putting down shavings, cleaning out strange manure and eliminating flies.  If you have lights, turn on the interior lights and open any feeder doors or windows that will increase the light.  If it’s a warm day, have as many windows and vents open as possible to avoid the trailer feeling like an oven.

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.