For many dairies, raising heifers off-site means transporting animals at least once to separate rearing facilities, and then bringing them home again before calving. The last time we checked there were not car seats for calves or seat belts for heifers. And with such an investment in your future herd, you want them to arrive safely and in good health.
The Dairy Calf & Heifer Association's new Gold Standards III, which addresses animal welfare, includes a segment on transportation. The transportation standards were developed to ensure that animals are transported comfortably and humanely. Among the recommendations are:
- Newborn calves should be dry, able to stand and at least 24 hours old before transporting.
- Prepare floors of transport units to promote secure footing and absorption of urine and manure, using sawdust, wood shavings, straw or sand.
- Schedule trips to minimize the number of hours cattle are on the truck.
- In hot weather, schedule hauling at night or in the cooler part of the day.
- In cold weather, cover 1/2 to 2/3 of the holes in the trailer to reduce wind-chill.
- If traveling for more than 24 hours with cattle 4 months of age or older, stop at a clean facility for a feed and water break for a minimum of 5 hours.
The Gold Standards III also cites as a reference a set of animal hauling and transportation guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Although the guidelines are developed for animal export, they are applicable to interstate transport of livestock as well. This extremely comprehensive document covers:
- Preconditioning and how it affects animal well-being and behavior during transport.
- Selection of the best transport vehicle for the age and size of animals being hauled.
- Vehicle preparation to prevent injury and disease transmission.
- Appropriate loading techniques and stocking density to help prevent injury and minimize stress.
- Responsible care during transit.
- Proper unloading practices to prevent injury and stress.
- Receiving and post-transit care.
Also included is a helpful contact list of nationwide livestock rest stops. You can access the USDA document here.
To review the full Gold Standards III document, follow this link.
Source: Dairy Calf & Heifer Association