Moving cattle safely from ranch to rail

Cattle are typically transported two to four times during their lives, making travel the second most stressful event for them, next to severe weather

Cattle are typically transported two to four times during their lives, making travel the second most stressful event for them, next to severe weather. And if careful animal-handling practices are not followed during travel, stress can directly affect beef quality and cost producers money.

A new beef checkoff-funded DVD and print piece, Master Cattle Transporter Guide, illustrates best practices to keep cattle safe and healthy as they move from ranch to rail.

National beef quality audits show bruising and rough handling of cattle during transportation costs the industry more than $114 million a year in trimmed carcasses and dark cutters. Stress on feeder cattle during transit to feedlots or stocker yards can lead to increased sickness, limiting potential performance of those calves for the rest of their lives, notes Anne Burkholder, chair of the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Animal Health and Nutrition Committee.

Animal welfare practices during transit can clearly end in either positive or negative results for the entire production chain.

“Producers do everything in their power to provide the best possible care for their animals on their farms or ranches, but we need to remember that transporters also play a critical role in the health and welfare of the cattle we raise,” says Dr. Ran Smith, D.V.M., and chair of the national Beef Quality Assurance Advisory Board. “By using best practices, they can save the beef cattle industry millions of dollars a year.”

Total Beef Quality Assurance aims to recover lost profits by improving the cattle handling skills of producers and truck drivers, said Burkholder. With clear advice and demonstrations, the DVD covers cattle behavior, proper loading, unloading and driving. There are also details on truck and trailer cleaning and biosecurity protocols that are based on USDA’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) guidelines.

The print manual fits easily inside a glove box and highlights important points covered in the DVD, such as:

  • Cattle handling guidelines, based on “point of balance” concept
  • Loading density diagrams for different types of trailers
  • Hot and cold weather handling considerations
  • Proper unloading of animals at their destination
  • Checklist to assess fit cattle, as well as sick or downer cattle

The DVD and print manual are sold together for $10, on a cost-recovery basis. Supplies are limited. For more information or to order a copy, contact 800-368-3138 or [email protected].

The Master Transporter Guide was funded by the beef checkoff and developed through cooperative efforts of cattle experts at Colorado State University, University of Nebraska, Texas Cooperative Extension, Kansas State University, the Nebraska BQA program, and several transporters, feedlot owners and beef producers.

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