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Cattle transportation practices

Canadian feedlot animal care assessment — Part 6

Do your feedlot employees know when new cattle will arrive and cattle need to be shipped out? Are you prepared for weather extremes when shipping and receiving to provide protection from extreme cold, heat, mud and snow? Will someone be available during unloading or are instructions posted for truckers? Do your receiving pens provide shelter, feed and water? These are a few of the questions auditors for the Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program will ask about your feedlot’s transportation policy and practices.

The policy must include a written protocol for handling incoming sick, injured, fatigued and immobile animals on the truck, stating that non-ambulatory cattle must never be dragged out of the trailer while conscious. This is a wilful act of abuse and results in automatic failure of the audit. Non-ambulatory cattle must be humanely euthanized and confirmed dead in the trailer before unloading. If the animal is likely to recover, it may only be unloaded for veterinary treatment upon the advice of a veterinarian. The auditor will interview employees to confirm that this protocol has been widely communicated.

Transporter assessment

The auditor will score at least one truck being unloaded and one truck being loaded, and verify that the truckers’ Canadian Livestock Transporter certification is current.

Timeliness of unloading and loading is assessed because holding animals in a trailer for long periods can contribute to animal stress. Full points are awarded for unloading within 60 minutes of arrival and leaving within 60 minutes of loading, with deductions for every 30-minute delay.

Loading density will be assessed. Signs of overcrowding include cattle vocalizations, animals not settled or standing on each other and/or non-ambulatory cattle. Signs of underloading include cattle laying down and non-ambulatory animals.

Incompatible animals must not be transported in the same compartment (heifers with steers, cows with bulls, significant size differences). Compromised animals fit for transport under “special provisions” must be loaded last and unloaded first as per CFIA regulations.

The trailer must be properly aligned with the (un)loading dock and side walls to prevent gaps where animals might get stuck or injured.

The trailer must have non-slip flooring, such as rubber mats, stamped tread, sand, shavings or steel reinforcement rods, and no holes that could cause tripping. Bedding should be provided for high-risk cattle, such as recently weaned calves and cull dairy cows, for transport during extreme winter weather (snowstorms, temperatures less than -15 C, extreme wind chill, freezing rain).

Cattle handling and condition

Cattle must be able to assume normal standing posture without contacting the roof or upper deck of the trailer. Auditors will look for rub spots and wounds on the backs of cattle as cattle leave the trailer.

Handling of cattle leaving or entering a trailer is assessed by recording the number of animals per load that are touched with a prod (energized or not) and the number of falls per load anywhere in the tub or bud box, alleyway, ramp and dock.

Cattle not fit for transport as per CFIA regulations must not be loaded. This list includes non-ambulatory cattle or those showing severe lameness, severe injuries, calving or uterine prolapse, emaciated or severely dehydrated, nervous disease, severe respiratory disease, and waterbelly. Loading animals with these conditions is a wilful act of abuse and grounds for audit failure.

This audit adds severe heat stress, severe congestive heart failure and poor udder condition because they cause distress and/or result in condemnation at processing.

The matter of unfit cattle arriving at the feedlot will be addressed but is not grounds for failure because animals may arrive in this condition by no fault of the feedlot.

The transport section is detailed and accounts for a possible 76 points. Scoring is largely based on meeting current industry targets as outlined in the manual.

This is part of a series on the new Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program. Contact your provincial cattle feeder association for the link to all program documents on the National Cattle Feeders Association’s website, or contact the NCFA, 403-769-1519, [email protected].

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