Feeding travelling cattle

Everyone involved in the transport of livestock must also comply with the compulsory code of practice for transport of livestock.

Guidelines for feeding

Cattle spelled in saleyards, spelling centres or transit centres should be fed at the travelling cattle rate for each 24 hours they are at the facility.

To do this, feed cattle:

  • that arrive before 12 noon on the day before a sale (except where they have travelled short distances and have had no prior curfew)
  • to be held for at least 24 hours after completion of the sale of the last pen - do not start feeding until the entire consignment has been delivered to the purchaser's pen to ensure all cattle have equal access to appropriate feed
  • that are held for 48 hours or more after the sale in a manner agreed to by the owner of the cattle and the saleyard operator or contractor; however, the overall feeding rate should reflect the daily travelling cattle rate requirements
  • in transit centres where spelling is required in line with the maximum travel times outlined in the land transport code.

Feeding rates

Usually, a ration of approximately 1.5-2% of body weight of reasonable quality hay (approximately 8% crude protein) provides a maintenance ration.

The travelling cattle rate (outlined below) does not provide a maintenance ration; it provides sufficient feed to deliver the animal safely to its proposed destination without compromising its welfare and ensuring its rumen continues to function effectively.

The table below shows the daily minimum feed intake for maintenance and for travelling cattle.

Liveweight (kg) Energy1 Protein2 Example daily feed intake for maintenance 3 Travelling cattle rate(kg)4
200 29 225 4.4kg (2.2%) 2.2
300 38 295 5.4kg (1.8%) 2.7
400 46 360 6.6kg (1.65%) 3.3
500 54 420 7.7kg (1.54%) 3.9
600 61 475 8.7kg (1.45%) 4.4

1 for maintenance (MJ ME/day)

2 for maintenance (g/day)

3 based on a diet of 8% protein and 7MJ ME/kg

4 required daily feed intake for travelling cattle

The table below shows the number of bales required to feed travelling cattle by liveweight and type of hay.

Liveweight (kg) Hay (bale) feeding per day per 20 head travelling cattle
Small square bales Round bales
Lucerne (25kg) Grass hay (20kg) 4ft (250kg) 5ft (330kg)
200 2 3 0.2 0.15
300 2.5 4 0.25 0.2
400 3 5 0.3 0.23
500 3.5 6 0.35 0.26
600 4 6.5 0.4 0.3

Hay bale variations and feeding

  • As bale weights vary significantly, weigh a sample of the hay bales to calculate an accurate feeding rate.
  • Ensure the hay is palatable to the stock and of a reasonable quality (e.g. at least 8% crude protein). If the hay is of a lesser quality, adjust feeding rates accordingly. Poor-quality hay is usually not palatable, has little nutritional value and is unlikely to meet the feeding program's aims.
  • Strongly consider feeding cattle in racks or bunks to limit the potential risk of chemical residues, parasite infestation, hay wastage and fouling of yards.

The above recommendations refer to cattle in strong body condition. Weakened, lactating or stressed animals may require additional feed to help cope with the added stress of transport. Feeding levels for this class of animal must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

These recommendations refer only to the short-term spelling of cattle. If you hold cattle for extended periods, you must feed them a maintenance ration.

Also consider...