Vermont this week issued new guidelines for hauling livestock.
The guidelines were issued by the Vermont Livestock Care Standards Advisory Council with the support of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.
The guidelines are not laws; they are simply a set of recommendations that highlight best practices for transporting livestock to slaughterhouses, fairs, auctions, etc.
Bilingual brochures illustrate the guidelines.
“The educational materials are comprised of best management practices related to on-farm care of calves and cattle; proper selection of animals to transport; proper handling of calves and cattle during loading, transport and unloading; preparation of the transport vehicle; extreme weather considerations; and best practices for drivers,” the Vermont Department of Agriculture states.
- Newborn calves should be at least 24 hours of age prior to transport. Best practice: 4-5 days2.Canadian Code of Practice states that calves less than 7 days of age should not be transported4.
- Calves should be provided with colostrum or a colostrum replacer within 6 hours of birth2. Feedcalves liquid food within 6 hours of transport.
- Calves should be dry, well hydrated and able to stand and walk on their own prior to transport.
- Electrolytes can be utilized to initially rehydrate calves.
- For traceability, individually identify each calf with a RFID implant or ear tag carefully placed,without pinching and to allow for calf growth.
- Delay any other stress inducing procedures such as vaccination, dehorning or other handinguntil a week after transport.
- To prevent meat residues, “bob” veal calves (meat calves less than 30 days of age) must meetrequired withdrawal times for all antibiotics and medications, including those in colostrum ormilk replacers.
- Feed all calves a minimum of twice daily2.
- For long transport journeys, feed calves within 5-6 hours of loading. After 18 hours of transport,stop for rest, water and feed4.
- Ideally, “bob” veal calves should be slaughtered within 30 hours of last feeding3.Selecting Calves Fit to Transport:
- In order to pass USDA inspection for human food, “bob” calves destined for slaughter must be strong enough to survive the journey to the livestock market and/or plant and to stand and walk without assistance at slaughter.
- Calves should be dry, healthy, free of visible disease, disability, injury or blindness3.
- Do not ship calves that appear exhausted or dehydrated until rested, fed and rehydrated.
2 Optimal criteria for calves :
1. A minimum of 4 days of age, Canada 7 days.
2. Weight minimum of 50 lbs. (23 kg.) for Holstein or 34 lbs. (15 kg.) for Jersey.
3. Have been fed colostrum at birth and up to 4 days of age and then milk or milk replacer.
4. Free of drug and antibiotic residues.
5. Have a navel cord which is dry, wrinkled and shriveled, not pink, red, raw or fleshy.
6. Have hooves that are firm and worn flat and not bulbous with soft, unworn tissue.
7. Be in good health, alert and able to rise from a lying position. Calves should be bright,
responsive and able to protect themselves from other animals.
8. Calves should be able to stand and walk without the assistance of a person to hold them up.
Distressed calf options:
Calves that are unfit for transport due to disease or injury should be evaluated immediately and treated or be euthanized. Follow AABP euthanasia guidelines for decision making and procedures5: www.aabp.org.
Handling of Calves:
- All handlers and transporters should be trained on quiet, gentle handling of calves. Documenttraining and verify that practices are followed.
- Gentle, hand guiding of one animal at a time is considered a best practice to prevent injury.
- Most newborn calves will need assistance when loading and unloading from transport vehicles.
- Never use electric prods on newborn calves.
- Calves should never be lifted by only head, ears, neck, tail, hair/hide or a single leg.
- Do not ever throw, hit, drop or drag a calf.
- Calves should not be driven using the “flight zone”, fear or physical contact because they aretoo young to respond. Techniques such as yelling, whistling or using dogs can cause injuries and stress.
On Farm Recommendations:
- Lactating dairy cows ideally should be dry. If not, milk just prior to transport to market orslaughter1.
- Transport of cows within two weeks prior to or after calving should be avoided2.
- Feeding a high-fiber dry feed for 48 to 72 hours prior to transport can help to reduce themoisture content of manure, improve air quality, animal comfort, animal and vehiclehygiene3.
- Cattle should be well hydrated and able to stand and walk on their own prior to transport.
- For traceability, each animal should be individually identified using a RFID implant or anofficial ear tag as well as a temporary “back tag” for larger loads from multiple producers.
- Required “withdrawal times” must be met for all antibiotics and medications.
To keep cattle hydrated, provide water until the time when loading begins. Reviewtransport time and distance to determine feed withdrawal time (up to 18 hours prior toloading) 1.
U.S. Code states that cattle being transported should be fed, watered and rested at least
every 28 hours1. Extended time without feed can greatly reduce welfare and meat quality.
accompany the load.
- Do not ship cattle that appear exhausted or dehydrated until rested, fed and rehydrated.
- In order to pass State and USDA inspection for human food, cattle destined for slaughtermust meet minimum health requirements. Do not accept cancer eye, debilitated thin animals or cattle that appear sick. Cattle must stand and walk without assistance at slaughter.Do NOT load non-ambulatory cattle. Cattle that are unfit for transport due to disease or injury should be evaluated immediately with treatment instituted or be euthanized. Follow AABP euthanasia guidelines for decision making and procedures1: www.aabp.org.