Ask the Vet

Best Practices for Transporting Cattle

Avoid overloading cattle for transportation, to help reduce stress and meet animal welfare objectives. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo)


How many stockers, or mother cows, can I put in a livestock trailer? I realize trailers vary in length and width, but as a general rule how do you estimate what is safe and responsible?


That's a great question. My first recommendation is that you consider going through your local Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program sometime in the future. They will do a thorough job of answering that question, while also addressing other transportation issues like low-stress handling and working in the heat.

There are hauling guidelines, based on animal weights and trailer size. To give you an idea, let's look at a stock trailer with a compartment weight of 8,000 pounds. If you are hauling cows that weigh 1,200 pounds each, you could put six head in that trailer. This doesn't include their calves, just the cows. Logically, the bigger the trailer, and the higher the compartment weight, the more animals you could carry. I recommend erring to the side of under-loading, especially when conditions are hot. Never exceed the Gross Vehicle Weight rating for your truck and stock trailer.

The BQA Transportation Manual contains all the details on this subject, including charts that look at 8 different trailer compartment weights, with the corresponding number of cattle that can be safely and humanely carried. You can download a PDF of the manual here:….

Of course, all of this means you need to know the weights of the cattle you're intending to haul.


Editor's Note:

Please contact your veterinarian with questions pertaining to the health of your herd or other animals. Every operation is unique, and the information in this column does not pertain to all situations. This is not intended as medical advice but is purely for informational purposes.

Write Dr. Ken McMillan at Ask The Vet, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email