Transporting livestock responsibilities and recommendations

Are you planning to transport cattle, sheep, or goats?

Make sure you’re well prepared with these top tips for transporting livestock.

Are they ready to go?

Before loading your livestock, it’s important to make sure they’re ready to go. Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Are they likely to meet your market's expectations?
  2. Have they been curfewed appropriately?
  3. Are they fit to load?

Meeting market specifications

If you are selling livestock, either for slaughter over the hooks, to the saleyard or in a private sale, it’s important to consider whether the stock meet your customer’s requirements. These might include:

  • weight
  • fat or condition scores
  • withholding periods
  • Livestock Production Assurance (LPA)
  • Meat Standards Australia (MSA) or other quality assurance program information
  • dentition or age of the sheep.

Meeting market specifications can lead to higher prices compared to selling stock that is outside the specifications and can help to create a good relationship with your supply chain.

Curfewing livestock

Curfewing livestock means holding them off feed for a certain period prior to transport and slaughter. An appropriate curfew period helps ensure that livestock are ‘empty’ for transport, which means that the livestock are cleaner during and after transport. Reducing faecal contamination during transport improves animal welfare, minimises pollution risks for the transporters and significantly improves food safety at processing.

Curfew times often depend on your supply chain’s requirements. For example, lambs being consigned for slaughter with MSA must be curfewed for a minimum of 12 hours, up to a maximum of 48 hours prior to slaughter. This means that you should consider time in transport and lairage when calculating how long to curfew sheep before leaving your property.

Processor and supply chain curfew requirements vary. Producers, stock agents and transporters should contact processors to understand curfew requirements for that supply chain.

Animals fit to load

As a consignor, it is your responsibility to ensure animals are fit to load and fit for the intended journey before they are loaded.

Make sure you are familiar with the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines (the ‘Standards’). The Standards are summarised in a handy, easy to use booklet ‘Is the animal fit to load?’. The booklet also includes helpful checklists and examples.

Planning the journey

Preparing for the journey your livestock will be taking is an important step. Good preparation can ensure better animal welfare, minimize transport-related losses and can support better eating quality outcomes.

Make sure you have a good plan for the journey, by considering the following three factors.

Maximum times off feed and water

While specific curfew periods are often requested by a processor or supply chain, it’s important to know what the maximum legal limits are for time off water for your livestock. Keep these limits in mind when curfewing and preparing your stock for transport, especially if there is some uncertainty about how far they are going to travel or what the conditions may be en route.

Spelling

If the journey is likely to take longer than the maximum time allowed off water, the livestock must be spelled. This means that the stock should be unloaded, allowed access to water and space to lie down. If the maximum time off water is reached, they must be spelled for a minimum of 36 hours. Livestock must be inspected for fitness for the remainder of the journey before reloading.

Extra considerations

For some classes of livestock, special transport conditions apply. For example, very young animals and animals in late pregnancy should not be transported unless very stringent welfare conditions are met (see the Standards and the Is the animal fit to load). Separating livestock into pens based on species, liveweight, class, horn size/status and wool length is also good practice.

Get the paperwork right

Make sure you have the right paperwork, correctly filled in and signed. Some of the consignment paperwork, such as LPA National Vendor Declarations, are legal documents and must be signed by the person consigning the livestock. Make sure you know what documents are required, how to fill them in and have them completed prior to transporting the livestock.

More information

For more information about documents that may be required when transporting livestock, see the following information about declarations:

Other supply chain declarations — check with your processor or supply chain to confirm what other documentation may be required.

Page last updated: 11 Dec 2020