Safety Considerations When Hauling Livestock



Safety Considerations When Hauling Livestock

— Written By John Cothren and last updated by JoAnne Gryder

Towing a livestock trailer is a common practice on most farms and ranches.  Livestock trailers, also referred to as stock trailers, are used to move livestock between locations, haul show animals to county fairs and transport animals to processing plants.  Before using a livestock trailer, check both the truck and the trailer to ensure that they are in good working condition.  In addition, take the following actions:

  • Latches and safety chains:  Double check the latches and the safety chains and cables between the truck and trailer to make sure they are fastened securely.  Make sure you are using a ball that is the correct size for the trailer.
  • Trailer brakes:  Inspect the breakaway cable or brake system.  Manufacturers recommend that any trailer exceeding 1,000 lb. have its own brake system.
  • Wheel bearings:  Repack the wheel bearings on a regular basis and replace as necessary.
  • Electric Wiring and Connections:  Check to make sure that all the lights (brake light, turn signals, and tail lights) on both the truck and the trailer are working.
  • Tires:  Examine the tires for signs of dry rot, wear or damage, and make sure that all tires, including the spare and inside dual tires, have the correct air pressure.
  • Lug nuts:  Inspect the lug nuts regularly to ensure they are properly tightened.
  • Trailer:  Inspect the trailer floor to make sure it is sturdy and clean.  If more traction is needed, install rubber matting.  Consider replacing floorboards that are showing signs of wear or rot.
  • Brake controllers:  Test your brake controllers and make adjustments as needed depending on the weight of your trailer.

Loading the Trailer

Loading animals into a trailer can sometimes be a frustrating task, but there are steps you can take to make the task safer and, ideally, easier.  For example, lower the back of the trailer as much as possible so that animals may step into the trailer without having to step up.  Remember to be patient and calm during the loading process so that you do not scare or stress the animals. Additional recommendations include the following:

  • Weight distribution:  When using a bumper pull trailer, place the heaviest animals in the front of the axles.  Load older and larger animals first, followed by younger and smaller animals.
  • Visibility:  Make sure animals can see you when you enter and exit the trailer.
  • Squeeze and pinch points:  Remain alert to the danger of being pinned between animals and trailer sides and being pinched by the trailer gate.
  • Gates:  Once the animals are loaded into the trailer, quickly close the gates and ensure they are secure.
  • Protrusions:  Inspect the trailer for broken or sharp objects protruding into the trailer. These items should be repaired immediately to prevent an injury to an animal or operator.


When driving on any roadway, always maintain a safe speed, keep your headlights on, and stay alert.  Your braking time increases when you are towing a full trailer, so maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you and leave adequate room to stop.  Plan your travel time carefully, and be aware that weather can cause delays by impacting road conditions and animal comfort.

Do not lock the trailer when you are transporting animals.  In the event of an emergency, rescue workers will be able to more quickly gain access to an unlocked trailer.  For your animals’ safety, do not allow them to hang their heads out of the trailer, where they could be injured by flying objects.