Transporting Livestock

When transporting livestock, you are responsible for the ensuring the welfare of animals throughout the journey, from loading to unloading.

Ensuring your livestock are fit to load not only helps you meet your legal obligations but also supports a thriving livestock industry with huge consumer demand. We love our animals, they are our life, our passion and our livelihoods. Being extra vigilant about the health and welfare of our animals before transporting are important, not just for that individual animal, but our whole industry.

Are your animals fit to load?

As a livestock producer, you have a responsibility to ensure your stock are fit to load when being transported. Not only does the consumer demand high-quality meat, free of chemicals and residues, people want to know that what they are buying comes from animals that are raised and treated humanely.

One of the ways we achieve this is by having standards of animal welfare for the transport of livestock. This means everyone involved along the supply chain has a role in ensuring good animal welfare. This responsibility is equally applicable to every person involved along the way. This includes the farmer and farm workers, the truck driver, agent, saleyard or abattoir staff and anyone else involved in the transport of livestock.

Understand your responsibilities when transporting stock

You have obligations when transporting livestock in NSW.

You are required to ensure that each animal is healthy enough that being transported won’t cause any suffering or distress.

This means, every animal must:

  • Be able to bear weight on all four legs
  • Show no signs of injury or distress
  • Be strong enough for travel (not dehydrated or weak and skinny)
  • Not be blind in both eyes
  • Not be heavily pregnant or too young to travel
  • Meets the maximum time off water standards.

If in doubt, leave it out! Animals that are not fit to load can be treated and reassessed once recovered, or you can consult a vet or consider humane euthanasia of the animal.

Meat and Livestock Australia have released a guide on preparing stock for transport and how to meet the standards to reduce animal stress and minimise any risks to animal welfare.

Download the guide (Meat and Livestock Australia).

A glove box guide is also available for producers to understand biosecurity, emergency animal diseases and preparing livestock for transport.

Download the glovebox guide (NSW DPI).

If you are transporting pigs, a similar pig-specific guide can be obtained from Australia Pork Limited Pigs are very susceptible to heat stress during transport. This guide includes a tool to calculate whether weather conditions are suitable for transporting pigs and provides tips on how to best manage heat stress during transport.

Proper planning and preparation are key

People involved in the transport of livestock should ensure the livestock are adequately prepared for the trip and that the trip is planned to minimise the cumulative effects of stress on the animals.

Preparation and planning prior to transporting stock include:

  • avoiding extreme weather conditions
  • minimising stressful management prior to transport
  • ensuring yards and loading ramps are adequate
  • using low stress handling techniques
  • ensuring the correct times for withholding feed and water are followed for that age and status of the livestock
  • recording times off feed and water
  • ensuring livestock are spelled when required for the correct times
  • ensure animals are fit to load
  • ensure animals are segregated appropriately for transport
  • ensure the correct livestock density is followed
  • ensure all animals are tagged and that the correct paperwork is completed and signed.

Strategies for livestock unfit to load

Assess the condition of the animal and, if necessary, consult your veterinarian. Animals that are likely to have a good recovery and can be effectively treated should be, so that they can be loaded on a later date. Look at options before you treat. Consider likely development of diseases, withhold periods (WHP) and export slaughter intervals (ESI) on any veterinary medications, as well as the possible deterioration of the animal’s condition, whilst waiting for time frames to expire.

Sometimes animals just need time to recover from minor illnesses and injuries without undue handling or interference. If it is safe, humane and available, the space and time should be provided for the animal to rest and recover before rescheduling the transport.

Download our factsheet on livestock unfit to load  PDF, 1575.29 KB for more advice.

Adapted from content by District Vet Linda Searle.

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