Transporting stock


2 min read

Working with stock transporters Minimise travel Check stock are fit for transport Preparing for transport The day of transport Update NAIT and farm records Podcast Additional resources

Preparing stock for transport is about ensuring a safe and comfortable journey, along with checking their wellbeing on arrival. This page outlines key considerations such as minimising travel, communicating with transporters about specific livestock needs. It also includes assessing if stock are fit for transport, standing off green feed for a particular time, providing necessary nutrients like calcium and magnesium for in-milk cows, and following all NAIT obligations.

Working with stock transporters

When booking a stock transporter, ask around for recommendations and/or ask enough questions to ensure you are comfortable trusting your animals in their care:

  • Confirm the truck will be thoroughly cleaned before your cattle are transported.
  • Confirm the truck has suitable effluent storage and that it will be emptied.
  • If your livestock are travelling longer distances, such as inter-island movements, understand your stock transport provider's plans for food and water along the journey. As a general rule, in-calf heifers or cows require water every 12 hours and feeding every 24 hours. The MPI Code of Welfare for Transport within NZ contains best practice guidelines.
  • Tell your transporter if any cattle have horns. In most instances, horned cattle should be penned separately on the truck to prevent injury to other animals.
  • If you have large or tall stock over 1.4 metres high at the hip, prevent back rub injury by transporting them on a single deck truck, or load them onto the bottom deck as it offers more height than the top deck. Let your transporter know in advance so they can select the right truck and plan the best journey. See MPI guidance for transporting tall stock.

Minimise travel

Request that cull cows are sent to a processing facility nearby to minimise transport distance. It is better for the animal as the risk of injury or going down increases with time and distance. If space is tight, and the distance is longer than normal, keep older or lighter cows back.

Only transport cows that are not likely to give birth during the journey or within 24 hours of arriving at the destination.  If stock are within 4 weeks of calving date, travel time should be less than 2 hours.

Check stock are fit for transport

Contact your vet, transport operator or processing company if you are unsure whether an animal is fit for transport. Some conditions will require veterinary examination and certification if appropriate. Check for:

  • No signs of ill health
  • No visible wounds, bleeding, disease, deformity or infection
  • No ingrown or recently removed horns
  • Cancer eye lesions must be confined to the eye, smaller than 2cm and not bleeding or discharging.
  • Able to bear weight evenly on all four limbs
  • A Body Condition Score (BCS) of 3 or greater. Cows with BCS below 3 can only be transported to better grazing, not to sale yards or slaughter, and vet advice is recommended.

Preparing for transport

  • Before loading, stand stock off green feed at least 4 hours and no more than 12 hours. Continue feeding silage, hay, or straw during stand-off.
  • Confirm your expectations with the transporter and that agreed feed and water will be available to animals along the journey if necessary, and on arrival.
  • Make sure you have enough people to help with the loading and unloading for a smooth and efficient process.
  • Ensure all animals that are going to be transported are NAIT compliant (i.e., have NAIT tags in their ear and are registered with NAIT).

The day of transport

  • Continue feeding silage, hay, or straw during stand-off, especially for lactating cows or prior to long-distance journeys.
  • Ensure all stock have access to water prior to loading. Many farmers have plumbed in a basic water trough at the yards that can be filled whilst the yards are in use.
  • Inspect each animal prior to loading to ensure they are fit and healthy for transport.
  • Complete an Animal Status Declaration (ASD) and NAIT documentation.
  • After unloading, stock should be inspected as soon as reasonably practical to check for signs of injury or illness.
  • Move to appropriate feed and water access as soon as possible after arrival. Ensure appropriate food and water will be immediately available upon unloading.
  • Make arrangements to ensure any lactating cows are milked immediately before loading.
  • Lactating cows need extra calcium, in addition to extra magnesium, on the day of transport. The extra calcium could be given as an oral drench, bolus, extra allowance of a calcium-enriched meal, or a slurry poured over dry feed. Use the same rates as for colostrum cow supplementation.

The cows that are leaving are kept in a small, grazed out paddock with ad-lib hay, so they can lie down and rest. Shortly before the truck arrives, I put them on the yard with a cutdown 200L drum. It’s easy to fill with the pressure hose and the cows have access to water until they are loaded.

Farmer tip

Why calcium is important on the day of transport

Lactating cows have a higher risk of metabolic issues during transport. They can’t top up their calcium during travel because they aren’t eating but they’re still putting calcium into producing milk. The longer they travel the more likely it is their muscles will run out of calcium. Give them roughage, extra calcium, and constant access to water until the time of loading.

Give extra calcium before transport

Video 1.45 min

Update NAIT records

Ensure your NAIT records are up to date, all animals are tagged, and you’re completing all NAIT actions within the required timelines.

  • You must complete an ASD form if you move animals to another property, a sale yard or meat processor, except for bobby calves. Visit OSPRI to complete a paper ASD form or use MyOSPRI for electronic ASDs.
  • All movements of dairy cattle must be recorded in the NAIT system to ensure animals can be traced for biosecurity purposes.
  • Both sending movements and receiving movements must be completed within 48 hours of the physical movement of the stock occurring.
  • Find out more information about updating your NAIT. If you have any questions or problems, call OSPRI on 0800 482 463.


Once cull cows are on the truck for transport, they can be a bit out of sight, out of mind but our responsibility for their welfare doesn’t end at the gate. In this episode, Jac McGowan from DairyNZ joins a local truck driver for a day to see first-hand the ins and outs of transporting stock, and what challenges you’re preparing them for.

Listen on:

Last updated: Apr 2024
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