Loading strategies for transporting cattle by road

Proper preparation of livestock is essential for minimising stress and injury during transport. Cooperation and communication between everyone involved in the transport of livestock will:

  • maximise animal welfare while livestock are in transit
  • make sure livestock arrive at their destination in the best possible condition.

The responsibility for the welfare of livestock is shared among everyone involved in transport, including the consignor, transporter and receiver, and all must comply with the code of practice for transport of livestock.

Key responsibilities

The consignor is responsible for:

  • mustering and assembling livestock
  • handling
  • preparing livestock, including selection as 'fit for the intended journey'
  • providing feed and water
  • using holding periods before loading.

The transporter is responsible for:

  • loading
  • ensuring appropriate loading density (excluding poultry)
  • performing the final inspection as 'fit for the intended journey' during loading
  • monitoring the journey
  • performing additional inspections of livestock during the journey
  • providing spelling periods during the journey
  • unloading.

The receiver is responsible for:

  • providing care after unloading.

Animal selection

Pre-transport preparation and selection is essential for successfully transporting livestock.

Livestock require time to settle down after mustering and handling in the yard. Animals should be well rested and hydrated prior to transport, particularly those intended for long distance transport.

Fit for the intended journey

Livestock that are not 'fit for the intended journey' must not be presented or loaded for transport, and instead withdrawn from transport and provided with appropriate treatment.

To determine fitness for a journey, consider each animal's:

  • ability to walk bearing weight on all legs
  • age
  • pregnancy status
  • body condition
  • stress levels or injury status
  • ability to see.

Feed and water

The maximum time livestock can be kept from water and feed varies with species, age and reproductive status. When livestock have reached their maximum time off water, they must be spelled before continuing the journey.

Any livestock intended for journeys longer than 24 hours must have accompanying records that show when they had access to water during transport.

If there is a mixed load of animals (including various age groups or species), the maximum time off water is determined by the animal that needs access to water soonest.


Spelling, providing food, water and rest, is vital to ensure livestock are fit to continue the journey. The code of practice for livestock transport outlines the minimum spell periods that livestock must receive before continuing a journey. The spell period begins when the livestock are unloaded and ends when they are handled for reloading.


The stock handler's attitude and actions can determine if transport of animals is successful. Livestock travel better when they are quiet, and segregated by size, gender and horn status.

Correct livestock handling reduces bruising and stress. Skilled stock handlers who work livestock without noise and bustle reduce animal stress.

Livestock must be handled in a way that minimises stress throughout the transport process.

Loading densities

Appropriate loading densities depend on the age, size and reproductive status of the livestock, as well as weather conditions and the distance to be travelled. Loading densities must be assessed for each crate or container to ensure the animals give each other mutual support.

Appropriate loading densities reduce stress, bruising and deaths during the journey. Overloading increases the risk of an animal going down and being unable to get up again. Downer animals (unable to stand) significantly increase the risk of bruising, injury and mortality.

Also consider...