Transporting livestock - are they fit to load?

The Northern Tablelands Local Land Services Animal Biosecurity and Welfare team have offered advice to livestock producers on their responsibilities in transporting livestock.

When transporting livestock there are a few things livestock producers should know to meet the Animal Welfare Standards & Guidelines for the Land Transport of Livestock.

The duty of care and management of livestock is a shared responsibility for all those involved throughout the transport chain. This includes stock owners, transport operators, saleyard personnel/receiver and stockpersons.

Best practice is to conduct a welfare assessment of each animal prior to movement ensuring they are fit for transport for the entire journey. The ‘Fit-to-Load’ Guide when transporting livestock published by Meat and Livestock Australia is the best reference for livestock producers in assessing their stock.

The chain of responsibility in transporting livestock is shared between the person in charge at any one point.

*Consignor – mustering, handling, preparation including inspection & selection as fit for the intended journey, have adequate feed & water provision and holding periods before loading.
*Transporter/Driver – responsible from the point of loading until unloading and notifying the receiver at the destination. Includes final inspection during loading, loading density and adequate spelling periods during the journey.
*Receiver (the person at the destination) – responsible for welfare after unloading.

Andrew Biddle, District Veterinarian for Northern Tablelands Local Land Services said “To avoid livestock arriving at their destination injured, it’s important that each animal is checked and assessed as fit for the journey.”

The fit to load criteria include that livestock:

*Be able to walk on its own by bearing weight on all four legs
*See well enough to walk, load & travel without impairment or distress. (Not blind in both eyes).
*Be free from visible injury or distress.
*Not be weak, in poor condition or dehydrated.
*Not be heavily pregnant.
*Have had access to water prior to loading to meet maximum time off water standards.

“If in doubt about an animal’s condition, our advice is to leave that animal off the truck to minimise risk to weak, ill or injured stock”, he said.

The ‘Fit-to-Load’ Guide when transporting livestock is published by Meat and Livestock Australia and is available from their website or you can visit the Local Land Services website and search ‘fit to load’ to access a range of resources and information.

Some animals that do not meet fit to load criteria can be transported under special conditions on veterinary advice, so if you have concerns about the assessment of fitness for the intended journey, contact your nearest Northern Tablelands Local Land Services office on 1300 795 299 to speak to one of the district veterinarians or speak to a private vet.

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