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Managing risk when transporting drought-affected livestock

There are 4 key areas to consider in managing the risks associated with transporting weakened livestock: early action, planning, pre-transport preparation, and handling.

Early action

Early drought management, risk analysis and decision making ensure that livestock are not placed in a condition where their welfare is compromised while being transported.

Planning

Before making any transport arrangements, you need to consider all aspects of the intended journey.

Key aspects include:

  • ensuring that only reputable operators transport livestock
  • informing the transport operator of the cattle's condition when booking the transport, and seeking advice on the suitability of the journey and its possible impact on the animals
  • ensuring that you transport weakened livestock over the shortest possible time and directly to the destination
  • ensuring that weakened animals going to slaughter travel directly to the abattoir and are not processed through a saleyard
  • understanding that weakened livestock have greater requirements when spelling (additional time, higher quality fodder, etc) than might normally be available
  • accounting for any en route treatments that the animals require under state or federal legislation, such as dipping for tick clearance
  • understanding that the stress of travel or unexpected delays could cause animal strength to decline rapidly and identifying all potential spelling facilities en route - not just those intended for the journey
  • avoiding climate extremes when handling, loading and transporting the animals, as weakened animals are particularly susceptible to weather extremes
  • ensuring that adequate facilities are available for taking delivery of animals on arrival
  • considering euthanasia options for severely distressed animals.

Preparing

Animals that are prepared appropriately before transportation will travel better and experience fewer problems.

Consider the following when preparing livestock for transport:

  • Make sure only fit livestock are selected for travel by experienced stockpersons.
  • If animals go down after limited exercise, withhold them from transport and either feed to increase their strength or euthanase.
  • Females in late pregnancy are particularly susceptible to metabolic disease so you should withhold them from transport.
  • Before transportation, give weakened livestock access to fodder and water. Keep a balance between emptying the rumen (to prevent slippery floors on the truck caused by manure and urine) and maintaining a healthy rumen (to reduce transit stress that may cause metabolic upsets).
  • Feed animals a high-energy, fibrous ration to strengthen them for transportation. This promotes healthy rumen function and minimises the risk of metabolic diseases.