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