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I’m going to be relocating next year from New York to Florida, and I’m taking my animals with me. Do you have any tips for minimizing the stress of travel on small and large livestock?
Transporting animals over a long distance can be very stressful for both you and your livestock, but there are several things you can do to increase your animals’ comfort and safety.
1. Orient Your Animals To The Trailer
First, if you own the trailer you’ll be using, take time prior to the move to make sure your animals willingly load and unload and stand quietly when in the trailer. It’s extremely stressful for everyone involved to start a long trip with the added anxiety of an animal that won’t step into a trailer. Practice herding your ruminants in and out of the trailer, too, so that they are familiar with the situation. Reward with a small amount of feed once they are inside to help them associate the trailer with positive reinforcement.
2. Vet The Hauler
If you use a commercial hauler for transporting animals, make sure it’s a reputable company with experience and good references. Ask the hauler what he or she knows about your animals’ husbandry needs while en route. To ensure biosecurity, make sure that the trailer was power-washed and sanitized before you load your animals, as the combination of hauling stress and a contaminated trailer could easily lead to illness.
3. Pack Snacks
When preparing your checklist for travel, include enough hay for all animals to cover the length of the trip and for a few days at the new location. Also, make hay available for all animals to munch on during travel. This will help decrease stress and bolsters digestive motility while on the road. Most animals don’t require grain or a concentrate feed while traveling unless the feeding of grain has been part of their daily rations, in which case, try not to break that practice of normalcy.
4. Be Water Wise
A week prior to transporting animals, put a little bit of sports drink, such as Gatorade, or peppermint or lemon extract in their water. Keep this up during travel and acclimation to the new location. Some animals balk at foreign-tasting water and become dehydrated. This extra flavoring hides the taste of different water sources and encourages regular drinking. A flavored drink mix, such as Kool-Aid, also works well.
5. Separate Large & Small Animals
Because you’ll be traveling with large and small animals, panel off the larger animals from the smaller ones for protection. If you have to brake suddenly or take a sharp turn, the larger animals could accidentally step on the ruminants and cause serious injury.
6. Add Bedding To The Trailer
Bed the trailer deeply with straw or shavings. This helps cushion your animals’ feet during the ride and also acts as an absorbent for the urine and feces that will collect during a day’s worth of travel. Try your best to empty and re-bed the trailer after a day of hauling. Stagnant urine builds up ammonia fumes, which are harmful to the animals’ respiratory tracts.
7. Organize Your Paperwork
Make sure all your paperwork is in order prior to transporting animals. To cross state lines, horses need an up-to-date negative Coggins test, and all animals need interstate health certificates. Sheep and goats also need a form of permanent identification, such as an ear tattoo or Scrapie tag. Many health forms need to be completed within 30 days of travel, and some livestock are required to be up-to-date on various vaccinations, such as rabies. Because requirements can differ by state, discuss the paperwork with your veterinarian ahead of time. It’s also a good idea to call the veterinarian’s office in the state you are moving to for the latest travel regulations, and to learn about any health issues or outbreaks at your final destination.
This article was written by Anna O’Brien, D.V.M., Germantown, Md., and vetted by Lyle G. McNeal, a livestock specialist in the Department of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences at Utah State University.