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Published May 27, 2014, 09:17 AM

Safe cattle hauling tips and preparation

BROOKINGS, S.D. — Now that pastures are starting to green up and calves are growing, many producers are getting ready to haul their cow-calf pairs to summer pastures.

By: SDSU Extension Service , Agweek

BROOKINGS, S.D. — Now that pastures are starting to green up and calves are growing, many producers are getting ready to haul their cow-calf pairs to summer pastures.

Multiple factors should be considered when transporting livestock, says Heidi Carroll, South Dakota State University Extension livestock stewardship extension associate, as she discusses three of those factors.

Stocking density

“The stocking density in trailers is important to maintain cattle well-being and minimize injuries,” Carroll says.

She explains that the table provided represents recommendations for polled and dehorned cattle. “Reduce the number of cattle by 5 percent when hauling horned cattle,” she says “During hot and cold conditions, decrease the number of head loaded to prevent additional stress.”

Remember, the maximum weight of cattle for each trailer size with these calculations. “Be careful not to exceed the gross vehicle weight rating for your truck and trailer,” she says.


Cattle well-being should be maintained during the entire process of transporting, from gathering and loading the animals to unloading.

“Calm, quiet low-stress handling methods should be used by everyone assisting,” Carroll says. “Sorting sticks, flags or paddles can be used to safely sort animals and humanely encourage movement. Electric prods should only be used on stubborn animals and then put out of reach after the animal cooperates.”

She also encourages cattle handlers to evaluate the facilities and trailer for distractions if cattle continually balk and refuse to flow easily instead of resorting to excessive electric prod use.

“A shadow, ground surface color change or a sweatshirt placed on a fence may inhibit cattle movement,” she says.

Weight distribution

Determine the appropriate weight distribution of cattle for your specific trailer type (gooseneck versus bumper hitch) and the number of compartments within the trailer.

“When hauling cow-calf pairs, separate the cows from the calves in the trailer to ensure the safety of the calves,” Carroll says.

When hauling bulls, she says to separate bulls from each other and to separate bulls from cows or calves. “Bulls unfamiliar with each other should not be mixed on a trailer because damage to the trailer and animals is likely to occur if or when they fight to establish a hierarchy,” she says.

Horned or tipped cattle should be separated from polled, and space allowance should be appropriate for each group with respect to horn status.

“Balance the weight to get the best towing performance and smoothest ride,” she says. “Also, be considerate of the route taken and how you drive to prevent cattle from jostling or slipping.”

Avoid sudden accelerations, stops or turns and pick roads that have minimal sharp turns or stops. Preparation, attention to detail and low-stress handling ensures a safe, successful experience when hauling cattle this season.

Carroll also says safe transportation of cattle starts with proper maintenance of the truck and trailer.

“During the busy spring season, maintenance and repairs may get pushed down the list of priorities. However, taking the time for maintenance checks will help things run smoother and safer when you begin hauling cattle,” she says.

Performing maintenance checks a few days before cattle are scheduled to be hauled provides time to fix any problems without pushing back the transport date. Maintenance will minimize the risk of devastating accidents that can damage not only the equipment, but also injure or kill livestock.

“Hauling cattle to summer pasture is a satisfying task after such a long, cold winter,” she says “Take the time to check over trucks and trailers to ensure it goes safe and smooth. Review humane handling methods with family members or employees to minimize the stress on the cattle and prevent injuries.”