Whether traveling to a sale barn, wheat pasture, corn stubble, feedlot or packing plant, autumn means cattle are on the move. As owners prepare to move their cattle, this is a good time to evaluate the transport process and find ways to minimize stress.
Transportation is a critical component of the U.S. beef production system. It also, however, is a potential cause of stress, injuries or transmission of disease among cattle. Problems during transport cause direct financial losses to cattle owners, and, increasingly, animal-rights activists are focusing on the transport stage as they work to stifle animal agriculture. Producers and truckers can protect their own investments and benefit the industry overall by continuously watching for and correcting problems during transport.
Animal-handling specialist Temple Grandin, PhD, at Colorado State University, has developed a Cattle Transport Audit Form for Animal Welfare and Meat Quality. Intended for packers to evaluate transporters as cattle arrive at the plants, the audit also can serve as a valuable tool at other production stages.
The form lists critical control points with objective standards for measuring performance. Some are “pass/fail” measurements, while others use a graded scale ranging from “excellent” to “serious problem.” These points include:
- Percentage of cattle that slip or fall.
- Percentage of cattle that walk or trot on or off the truck.
- Percentage of cattle that strike objects.
- Percentage of cattle prodded with an electric prod.
- Prompt unloading.
- Stocking density according to guidelines.
- Truck cleanliness.
- Handling of non-ambulatory animals.
- Cattle handling.
- Acts of abuse.
Another good source of information for best practices in cattle transport is the Master Cattle Transporter Training Program and related information from the checkoff-funded Beef Quality Assurance program for cattle transport. The program includes a cattle transport manual, online videos illustrating proper transport practices and additional resources relating to animal behavior, handling and transportation. The manual offers checklists and guidelines for animal handling, loading, traveling and unloading. Program materials are available online at www.tbqa.org.