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Southeast: Loading cattle the right way

Published on 22 August 2019

There is a step in between weaning and payday that can make a difference in our product. I’m sure you can recall seeing trailers with various issues over the years. When loading out after a sale once, I loaded a heifer onto a buyer’s bumper pull trailer.

It became quite obvious the hitch wasn’t latched, since the trailer lifted off the ball once the heifer stepped on the back. Other near-misses that cross my mind include an incident with cattle feet poking through the trailer floor as they were backing up to unload. The nails had rusted through, allowing the boards to slide inside, increasing the gaps. Trailer floors and sidewalls with questionable integrity are obvious issues. If we also consider overcrowding, unnecessary loading stress and weather stress, there is a lot that can reduce animal welfare, diminish carcass merit and profitability.

Loading cattle is not hard. However, doing it the right way takes planning and patience. Beef Quality Assurance Transportation has numerous components, with humane handling obviously being one of those. A few of the key handling components include the condition and footing of pens, alleys, loading and unloading points; appropriate use of cattle prods; moving cattle with minimal excitement; slip-resistant trailer flooring and knowing transportation laws. Animals may not be confined more than 28 hours without unloading for feed, water and rest with a minimum of five hours’ duration (unless hauled with access to these).

As people in the food production business, it is our goal to “deliver cattle in a timely fashion while ensuring cattle well-being.” This is the answer we should give to folks we come across at public places when hauling. Cattle on a trailer is one of the most public parts of the cattle industry. We must strive for good practices and stewardship when transporting our product. The cattle we load are food, and oftentimes one load accounts for hundreds if not thousands of future 8-ounce servings.

Hauling cattle with their welfare in mind reduces injury, carcass quality issues and sickness. There are many components to BQAT including cattle fitness, biosecurity, sorting, load density, vehicle and trailer readiness, and risk/emergency management. It will benefit the industry to make sure we and our co-workers are BQA Transportation certified. Get certified online at or at a live event. It may save a life.  end mark

Jason Duggin
  • Jason Duggin

  • Beef Extension Specialist
  • University of Georgia
  • Email Jason Duggin