12 preparation tips before shipping livestock

By MWI Animal Health

Livestock isn’t normal freight. Once cattle are loaded, they’re a commodity that needs to be cared for through point of destination. These are considerations to keep in mind when choosing a transporter of choice for calves, all while keeping welfare top of mind.
Livestock shipping truck
  1. Evaluate trucking needs and research available firms before hiring. Often, word-ofmouth and experience are best bets.
  2. Find out if truckers have been trained to drive; then explore if they’ve been trained to haul cattle. Better yet, ask if they’re certified through the Master Cattle Transporter program, a part of the BQA initiative (learn more at bqa.org). Also ask about individual driving records and on-time deliveries.
  3. Consider if the trucking firm maintains professional looking rigs. Are the trucks current models? Are the trailers clean and well-maintained for cattle safety?
  4. When ordering trucks, be accurate on the number and weight of the animals to ship. Cattle need to fit comfortably in the trailer. Better yet, sit down with the transporter before shipping day and design a plan.
  5. For longer hauls, let the trucking firm choose route of travel. It can figure mileage, taking into consideration states and weight restrictions and the route most beneficial for cattle.
  6. Be certain animals are healthy and able to withstand transportation. Presort ahead of shipment, several days in advance, so the cattle can settle back down. Avoid sorting only one day in advance because it adds additional shrink and more stress to shipping.
  7. Feed for shipment. If cattle are coming from a dry situation, avoid feeding anything rich and green the night before. Instead, feed dry grass hay.
  8. Have brand papers and health certificates, if needed for interstate shipment, in order before cattle are loaded.
  9. If weighing calves on-site, double-check that the scale is certified and in proper working condition. If weighing on-truck, it’s important to check with the company whose scales will be used, even if they’ve been used successfully in the past. Also, clients should weigh as close to their operation as possible, and make sure the roadway is clear — specifically no road restrictions or major construction — which can further cause delays.
  10. Be sure the 18-wheeler can access the chute — for example, are equipment and implements out of the way?
  11. Choose a capable crew. Assign jobs and communicate job duties before preparing to load cattle. Have help leave dogs at home.
  12. Handle cattle calmly and have them ready to load at the designated time. This helps the transporter get loaded and down the road. Good transporters watch corners, minimize stops, set the cruise control, and keep the ride smooth and easy for cattle.

Additional considerations

Plan ahead if cattle are marketed through live auctions

In order to head off stress and shrink, presort seven days ahead if possible and load accordingly. If clients have one load, for example, load steers in front, heifers in back, and keep outliers separate. This way, cattle are pre-sexed, presorted, and ready to run into the sale ring without additional sorting and added stress at destination. Also consider an auction barn for the manner in which personnel handles cattle, especially if selling newly weaned calves. When doing so, find out when the calves sell and time arrival as such. For example, don’t ship and unload calves at 6 a.m. if they won’t sell until 6 p.m.