How to Ship Livestock

How to Ship Livestock

While there is a lot of information available on shipping pets and horses, not as much focus is placed on how to ship livestock.

For both commercial farmers and backyard operations, shipping is an essential part of the livestock industry. This article will discuss the livestock shipping basics and specific considerations for shipping different livestock species.

Livestock Transport Basics

When transporting livestock of any kind, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Depending on your location and final destination, there may be some transport regulations you need to follow.

If you are moving animals across state lines, these transport regulations are critical. However, they can be a bit confusing. The National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) and the United States Animal Health Association has created some helpful resources. Together, they have hosted a website that can help you determine the shipping requirements based on the animal’s destination, breed, and purpose.

Once you have determined the transport regulations, schedule an appointment with a veterinarian to obtain a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI). The CVI is more commonly known as a health certificate. In small animals and horses, this document is issued for individual animals. With livestock, the number of animals traveling at once is usually much greater. 

For this reason, livestock health certificates typically contain multiple animals on one document. Each animal needs to have a unique form of identification. In cows, this is usually in the form of an ear tag. For chickens, this may mean an identification band on their leg. If you do not know what kind of identification your livestock needs, you can contact your veterinarian or an animal health official in your state.


Who Can Transport Livestock

Transporting livestock requires the use of large trailers and trucks that are equipped to handle the heavy load. Because of this, transport companies are usually an owner’s top choice for the job.

When looking for a transport company, make sure they have the appropriate licensing and follow the guidelines set by the Animal Welfare Act. This piece of legislation sets specific requirements for animal transporter registration and animal dealer licensing. It also provides standards for the humane handling, treatment, and care of animals during transport. 

Species Considerations

Now that you understand the basics of animal transport let’s look at some of the specific considerations for different livestock species. 

Cow Transport

Cows are typically transported in livestock trailers. Before loading the cows, make sure the trailer is hooked up properly and has been thoroughly cleaned since the last transport. A clean trailer is essential to prevent the spread of disease. Open all necessary gates within the trailer, and make sure gate locks are in good condition.

You can use chute systems to move cows from holding pens to the trailer. When using a chute, make sure it is properly secured to the trailer. This will prevent cows from breaking through the cute and trailer and getting loose. Most cows are familiar with chute systems and will follow others into the trailer. If your cows need a little encouragement to get moving, plastic paddles and flags can be used to help move the cattle. Animal handlers should avoid using cattle prods.

Because cows are heavy animals, you should consider the load limit of your trailer and vehicle. Do not overload the trailer with animals. Heavier individuals should also be loaded first to help balance the trailer and maintain safe travel.

Pig Transport

Although they are often seen as tough, pigs are actually very sensitive animals. As such, there are many special considerations for their transport. Pigs are typically transported in specialty livestock trailers. These trailers need to have non-slip flooring to prevent falls and injury during transport. It is also critical that trailers are covered and provide adequate protection from the sun. Pig’s skin is sensitive, and proper shelter is a necessity.

According to the Animal Welfare Act, pigs should be transported in the early morning or evening when temperatures are cooler. Unlike people, pigs cannot sweat to regulate their body temperature. This puts pigs at a higher risk of overheating. The Animal Welfare Act also requires transporters to reduce the number of animals in the livestock trailer by 10% if the temperature is over 77 F. 

Goat Transport 

When it comes to goat transport, there are a lot of options. You can ship goats in livestock trailers, specialty goat trailers, or even crates in the back of a truck or vehicle. Which transport method is best for you will depend on the size of your goat and how many goats you are transporting. 
 For large goat herds, a livestock trailer is usually best. All animals should have enough room to lay down without being stepped on by others. You should not transport goats with other species. It is also essential to separate certain groups within the herd. Mothers with nursing goat kids should be separated from any male goats. Likewise, pregnant goats should also be isolated. 
 When transporting a goat in a vehicle or crate, ensure the animal is adequately secured and has proper ventilation.

Chicken Transport

Chicken are shipped in specialty cages and crates. The Animal Welfare Act requires that all crates and cages are at least 10 inches tall, 8 inches wide, and 12 inches deep. These crate dimensions are designed to hold one bird at a time. Cages can be stacked in a transport vehicle but should be properly secured to prevent cages from tumbling or moving during the shipping process.

Birds are sensitive to wind and extreme temperatures, so they should be monitored closely during transport. Because of the cages required for shipping, it is challenging to provide food and water while the chickens are in their cages. Chickens should not go more than 8 hours without food and water breaks.

Final Thoughts

When shipping livestock, take time to understand the livestock shipping basics and the unique species considerations. If you cannot transport livestock yourself, use resources like Hauling Buddies to connect with a reputable transportation company. Pay close attention to the guidelines of the Animal Welfare act to ensure your animals are safe throughout the shipping process.