Each year livestock are transported across Australia between properties, feedlots, saleyards, processing facilities and export ports.
Due to the sheer size of Australia and the isolation of many properties, livestock are often trucked over large distances without food and water and sometimes in extreme weather conditions.
- The road transportation of livestock in Australia is regulated under state and territory road transport and animal welfare legislation.
- A concern raised when people see livestock being transported is that the trucks look overcrowded. In fact, livestock trucks are loaded with the welfare and wellbeing of animals as the top priority.
In simple terms, the transport of livestock can be likened to the transport of eggs – here’s why; you have two containers, one with eight eggs tightly packed and the other with only four eggs and loosely packed. If both containers are placed in your car and driven across town, the container with only four eggs would most likely end up with breakages. The container more tightly packed with eight eggs would experience minimum movement and as such have a better chance of remaining intact. When you apply this concept to livestock, it becomes evident that it is important for them to be tightly loaded. Unlike us, livestock are not seated and strapped in with a seat belt and so, as the truck moves, livestock rock against each other to avoid falling down or getting trodden on by others. Unlike us also, livestock are herd animals and are more comfortable being side by side for long periods of time.
- In some cases, it is possible that an animal will fall whilst being transported – drivers regularly check animals during long trips and ensure that they are all on their feet.
- Accidents and injuries often happen when vehicles carrying livestock contend with other vehicles in which the driver has a lack of understanding about the operational needs of large trucks on the roads. The stopping distance of a large truck and trailer, particularly when fully loaded with livestock, is much greater than that of other vehicles on the road – when overtaking, drivers are often unaware of this which can cause trucks to brake suddenly, disrupting livestock and causing injuries.
- Vehicles carrying livestock also often cannot travel at the speed limit when travelling uphill, and have greater difficulty stopping when travelling downhill or in wet conditions. Generally this means trucks will be travelling slower – again, unaware drivers can cause incidents in these circumstances.
- The livestock industries, government and researchers have collaborated to prepare new Australian Standards and Guidelines for the Welfare of Animals - Land Transport of Livestock as part of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy. These new standards and guidelines were legislated by the states and territories in 2013/14.
- To further ensure the welfare of livestock during transport, a national guide and quality assurance system, truckCare, has been developed by the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters’ Association. The independently audited program, which is endorsed by the Australian Government and the RSPCA, provides assurance that animal welfare is a priority in the preparation and transportation of livestock by road, by ensuring:
- Correct preparation of livestock prior to pick up
- Loading facilities promote a quiet movement
- The truck crate is well maintained, i.e. there are no holes or protrusions
- Drivers are trained in stock handling
- Drivers manoeuvre the truck as smoothly as possible – with sudden starts and stops avoided where possible
- Livestock are kept on the truck for the minimum period of time
- Livestock are checked during transit
- In addition, the 'Is it fit to load?' publication was developed by the beef and lamb industry to help cattle and sheep farmers decide if an animal is fit and healthy for transport. This helps ensure the safe arrival of animals at their destination.