Easing Stress on Transported Calves

Stress is one of the factors that can increase the chances of cattle developing bovine respiratory disease (BRD), and transporting cattle can create a stressful situation. However, in this industry, transporting cattle is inevitable. Below are a number of ways that can help to reduce the stress that occurs during transit.


Prior to loading the cattle on the truck, it is important that they are hydrated and fed. As the process begins, it is essential to stay calm when approaching the animals. There should not be any blind spots or shadows that could potentially frighten them.

Facilities should be clean with appropriate equipment to control dust and noise. Producers should also practice proper handling procedures. The use of hot shots or buzzers will not help the loading process, but will, in fact, only create more stress for the animal. Minimizing stress during loading will help the animals remain calmer and more relaxed during the transportation process.


To start, it is important to transport cattle during the most appropriate time of the day. For example, if it is the middle of the summer, it would be a good idea to haul cattle during the evening or in the early morning hours when it is cooler. Next, make sure to minimize the amount of time the cattle are kept on the truck by unloading the cattle as soon as the final destination is reached. Cattle should then be immediately provided with food, water and adequate space for rest. During the transportation process, the normal daily pattern for cattle is disrupted, so the sooner they can get back into a routine, the better.


Another component to consider is the truck that is transporting the cattle and its driver. Truck drivers should be fully trained and practicing best handling procedures at all times. The trucks should be clean and have adequate ventilation for the animals. Exhaust stacks should be above the top of the trailer. This will keep the fumes and heat from blowing in on the animals. If the stacks are blowing into the truck, those fumes can get into the animal’s respiratory tract and make them more susceptible to disease, including BRD.

As stewards of the animals, we need to create the best environment possible for them at all times. Having a plan for loading, transporting and unloading will aid in bringing every animal into the next phase of its life cycle. It is our job to make sure that is done in the safest and most efficient manner.

For more information on easing stress during transport of cattle, visit http://www.bqa.org/transportationqualityassurance.aspx.

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