Moving Animals


4 min read

Contract obligations Preparing for transport The day before The day of transport Tracking animals and paperwork Update NAIT

All cattle, regardless of their purpose, must be treated with care and respect as they are being prepared for transport and then physically transported. Moving animals, whether by road or truck can be stressful. Planning and getting it right means cows and youngstock will have a comfortable and safe journey and will arrive at their destination fit and healthy. 


Talk regularly to your stock carriers and transporters. Share your plans and have them share theirs. Remember some things are outside people’s control so if the plan changes find out why first and together work on a new plan. Be calm around the cattle in the lead-up – the lower their stress levels the easier loading, transporting and unloading will be.

Here are some things to consider when moving animals:

Contract obligations

Ensure all body condition score (BCS) targets will be met as per the contract on takeover date.

If BCS, pasture cover targets or supplements on hand are not going to be met, have a proactive conversation with the other party as to what arrangement can be made to compensate:

  • Obtain third-party advice if required to reach an agreement.
  • Contract third-party to measure surplus/deficit feed inventory and quantify if required.
  • Refer to your contract which should clearly show the exact amount of feed required on hand as well as the process to follow if the actual feed inventory is different to this.
  • Ensure calves are fully weaned and are getting their daily requirements through grazing pasture prior to moving them off-farm.
  • Winter and heifer grazing contracts should clearly set out the roles and responsibilities of the animal owner and the grazier, including feed management, animal health and transport.

Preparing for transport

If you're selling the herd, moving farms or sending animals to grazing, take time to plan their movement in advance:

Confirm the exact number of cattle you need to transport:

  • How many cattle will be going with you from farm to farm?
  • How many will be arriving from another farm?

Book in a stock transporter. If you haven’t used them before 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 empty.

Discuss tall cattle and cattle with horns with your transporter, and check you are happy with their plan for these. Also, check that they can transport your cattle with horns (if you have any). Seek Veterinary advice if this is unclear.

  • If you will be droving, try to find out from local farmers if they will also be droving and plan together how you will avoid each other.
  • Dry off as many animals as possible and do this with sufficient time to ensure they are properly dried off on the day of transport.
  • 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).
  • Confirm the animal health status of any animals that will be mixing with your animals on the new farm, and if necessary, make arrangements for testing, vaccinations etc. See the DairyNZ pre-purchase checklist for guidance.
  • Check that the farm loading ramp and holding yards are in good order with no obstacles or protrusions that could harm cattle or people during loading. Confirm this will also be true for unloading.
  • Check there are no biosecurity restrictions or requirements on the new farm, for example as a result of M bovis.
  • Understand your stock transport provider's plans for food and water along the journey. This will generally only apply to inter-island movements. As a general rule, pregnant cows require water every 12 hours and feeding every 24 hours. The MPI Code of Welfare for Transport within NZ contains best practice guidelines.
  • Ensure appropriate food and water will be immediately available to cattle upon unloading and who will be responsible for this.
  • Ensure someone has been given the responsibility to monitor the animals once unloaded to check they arrive in good health and that the person will be available to do this until you arrive.
  • Contact your insurer to confirm you have appropriate livestock transit cover in place before you move.

The day before transporting

  • Stand stock off green feed for at least 4 hours and no more than 12 hours, but continue feeding silage, hay or straw during stand-off.
  • 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 while the yards are in use.
  • Give extra calcium and magnesium to any lactating cows. Make arrangements to ensure these cows are milked immediately prior to loading.
  • Confirm with the transporter times and address details and your expectations for the move.
  • Make sure you have enough people to help with the loading and unloading for a smooth and efficient process.
  • Confirm that agreed food and water will be available to animals along the journey if necessary, and upon arrival.

The day of transporting

  • Inspect each animal prior to loading to ensure they are fit and healthy for transport.
  • Milk any lactating cows and provide extra calcium and magnesium.
  • Complete ASD and NAIT documentation.
  • Move to appropriate feed and water access as soon as possible after arrival.
  • After unloading, cattle should be inspected as soon as reasonably practical to check for signs of injury or illness.

Tracking animals and paperwork

Complete Animal Status Declaration (ASD) forms for any animals:

  • Moving between properties where there are multiple people in charge of the animals which are going to slaughter.
  • You can order a book of forms from Ospri.
  • Finalise critical record keeping for on-farm records
    • Nitrogen pages
    • Dairy diary
    • Milk volumes and SCC
    • Animal health records
  • Understand new resource consent management requirements of new property (e.g. recording monthly water use, completing compliance forms for environment).
  • Update farm policies and procedures for new farm. Ones that are especially important to complete early are:
    • Emergency plan
    • Farm rules
    • Map of the farm identifying risk and no-go or limited-go zones
    • Risk assessment – what are the key risks and how will you manage them
    • How your farm team will communicate, including about health, safety and wellbeing
    • Maintenance register
  • Finalise and/or update agricultural supplier accounts (e.g. FarmSource, Farmlands, PGG)

Update your NAIT accounts

  • All movements of dairy cattle must be recorded in the NAIT system to ensure animals are able to 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.
  • If you have any questions or problems with knowing what to do call OSPRI on 0800 482 463
  • Information for updating your NAIT and TBfree details

Last updated: Aug 2023

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