Land transport of livestock standards and guidelines

The Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines — Land Transport of Livestock have been adopted into Victorian legislation under the Livestock Management Act 2010. They are commonly referred to as the Land Transport Standards.

These nationally agreed animal welfare standards and guidelines were developed cooperatively by the livestock industries and government, under the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS). The standards and guidelines are based on the revision of the current Model Codes of Practice for Welfare for the transport of various livestock species.

Animal species covered by the Land Transport Standards

The Land Transport Standards (LTS) apply to the major commercial livestock species:

  • cattle
  • sheep
  • goats
  • pigs
  • alpaca
  • deer
  • poultry.

They also apply to:

  • horses
  • buffalo
  • camels
  • emus
  • ostriches (ratites).

The LTS cover the transport of livestock by road and rail, and by livestock transport vehicles aboard a ship.

A separate set of Standards, the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock cover the requirements for live export of livestock by ship.

Who do the Land Transport Standards apply to?

The Standards apply to all persons (livestock operators) involved in the livestock transport process. Livestock operators include the consignor, transporter and receiver of livestock and will often include saleyard and feedlot operators, agents and livestock processing plants.

The chain of responsibility for livestock welfare in the transport process is:

  • The consignor for the assembling and preparation of livestock, including the assessment and selection as 'fit for the intended journey', feed and water provisions, and holding periods before loading.
  • The transporter for the journey, which involves the loading, including final inspection as 'fit for the intended journey', the loading density, inspections and spelling periods during the journey, and unloading.
  • The receiver after unloading.

What are my obligations as a livestock operator?

Livestock operator checking sheep in transport The Livestock Management Act 2010 (LMA) requires all livestock operators involved in the livestock transport process to comply with the Livestock Transport Standards. There will be court penalties and/or infringements for those operators found to be in breach of the standards.

The LMA also requires livestock operators to conduct a systematic risk assessment of any prescribed livestock management standards within six months of these Standards being adopted into legislation. This involves an assessment of the likely animal welfare risks as a result of the livestock management activity.

Livestock operators who are participating in an Agriculture Victoria approved compliance arrangement such as an industry Quality Assurance (QA) program, are deemed 'accredited livestock operators'. They are exempt from conducting the systematic risk assessment, as a risk assessment will have been performed under the rules of their approved QA program.

Definition of Welfare Standards and Guidelines

Standards are the legal requirements for livestock welfare and use the word 'must'. The standards detail the requirements of livestock management practices and tasks.

Guidelines are recommended practices to achieve desirable welfare outcomes. Guidelines use the word 'should' and are designed to complement the standards.

Land Transport Standards and Guidelines

The Land Transport Standards and Guidelines document has two sections:

  • Part A has general standards and guidelines applicable to all livestock species
  • Part B has animal species specific standards and guidelines

Part A: General standards and guidelines for the transport of livestock

There are six sections of 'general' standards in Part A of the LTS document which are applicable to all the livestock species, each of which contains one or more standards and a number of guidelines.

1. Responsibilities and planning

  • These standards identify the people responsible for the care and management of the livestock at all stages of the transport process.
  • They identify certain journey planning requirements which must be carried out and require that contingency measures are in place to minimise risks to livestock welfare.
  • The guidelines list the recommended practices for consignors, drivers and transport companies, receivers and those responsible for trip planning.

2. Stock-handling competency

  • The objective of this standard is to ensure persons responsible for handling, managing or transporting livestock are competent, and that all those involved are either competent or supervised by a competent person.
  • The guidelines outline the elements of competency for each phase of the transport process.

3. Transport vehicles and facilities for livestock

This standard requires livestock transport vehicles and facilities for holding, loading and unloading livestock to be constructed, maintained and operated to minimise the risks to livestock welfare.

4. Pre-transport selection of livestock

The objectives of these standards are to ensure all livestock prepared and selected for transport, are 'fit for the intended journey' (refer to the MLA published booklet 'Is it fit to load?').

The standards detail certain criteria for which an animal is deemed 'not fit for a journey', and what must be done with animals assessed as not fit. It is the responsibility of the consignor to ensure they only supply livestock that are assessed as 'fit for the intended journey'. 

The transport driver has a joint responsibility in ensuring only animals assessed as 'fit for the intended journey' are loaded. The guidelines give recommendations on selection of livestock, and feed, water and rest considerations.

  • livestock must be provided with water, food and rest (a spell) once the maximum permitted time off water is reached, before continuing the current journey, or before starting another journey
  • the timeframe in which stock must be provided with water at a saleyard or spelling facility when no documentation is available indicating when stock last had access to water
  • determination of loading density and segregation of animals
  • livestock handling that is appropriate to the animal species and class to minimise pain and injury
  • limitations on the use of electric prodders and dogs
  • action required when distressed or injured stock are identified
  • the guidelines cover recommendations on loading; loading density, livestock handling, weak, ill or injured livestock, segregation during transport, driving management, weather conditions, in-transit inspection, feed, water, rest, stops and spells during and after the journey, and unloading and identifying ill or injured stock on arrival

5. Loading, transporting and unloading livestock

These standards are to ensure livestock are handled, loaded, transported and unloaded in a manner that minimises risks to livestock welfare.

6. Humane destruction

These standards provide for where it is necessary to destroy livestock, it is done promptly, safely and humanely. The guidelines detail humane destruction methods and procedures.

Part B: Species specific requirements

The section of the LTS document specifies the specific requirements for the transport of the various livestock species.

Each species section details standards and guidelines for:

  • the maximum permitted time off water period for the particular classes of stock (adults, young, pregnant or lactating females etc) refer to Table 1 for maximum time periods for the major commercial livestock species
  • the required minimum spell period (water, food and rest) once livestock reach the maximum permitted time off water period. Refer to Table 1 for minimum spelling periods for the major commercial livestock species
  • any permitted extension of journey time where feed and water is provided in-transit
  • restrictions on the use of electric prodders in certain species / class of animals
  • restrictions on the use of dogs in certain species / class of animals
  • restrictions on transport of animals 'off-shears' or after antler removal
  • segregation of certain classes of stock

The species specific guidelines give recommendations on such details as:

  • considerations for long distance travel and fitness
  • food and water
  • loading density
  • vehicles and facilities
  • handling
  • humane destruction methods

Table 1: Maximum time off water and minimum spelling periods for cattle, sheep, goats and pigs

a. Cattle

Class of cattle Maximum time off water (hours)Required
Cattle over 6 months old 48 36
Calves 30 days to 6 month old 24 12
Lactating cows with calves at foot 24 12
Calves 5 - 30 days old travelling without mothers 18  
Cows known to more than 6 months pregnant, excluding the last 4 weeks 24 12

b. Sheep

Class of sheepMaximum time off water (hours)Required spell period (hours)

Sheep over 4 months old

48

36

Lambs under 4 months

28

12

Ewes known to be more than 14 weeks pregnant, excluding the last 2 weeks

24

12

c. Goat

Class of goat

Maximum time off water (hours)

Required Spell period (hours)

Goats over 6 months old

48

36

Kids under 6 months

28

12

Goats known to be more than 14 weeks pregnant, excluding the last 2 weeks

24

12

d. Pigs

Class of pig

Maximum time off water (hours)

Required Spell period (hours)

Pigs

24

12

Lactating Sows and Piglets

12

12

Weaners

12

12

Livestock Management Standards

The following livestock management standards are currently available:

More information

You can find more information on animal welfare standards and guidelines below:

Page last updated: 13 Jul 2020