Pregnant cows can be transported, but only for a maximum of two hours when they are in late pregnancy (last four weeks). It is illegal to transport cows who may calve within 24 hours of transport. If this is likely, they should be left to calve, then transported a few days after calving. This includes cows going to the sale yards or to slaughter.
Some things to consider and plan for:
- In the last two months of pregnancy, the cows are bigger in the abdomen than usual and need more room on the truck. Some cows will struggle to fit through loading races and doorways.
- When booking the truck, let the trucking company know that the cows are heavily in calf and discuss if it is feasible for them to travel on the bottom deck only.
- Heavily pregnant cows are more likely to suffer metabolic stress in late pregnancy and need more regular feed inputs to cope with the demands of pregnancy on their body. Prepare them for the journey by feeding hay, straw or silage along with their main diet (grass/crop etc.) for up to a week before travel. More fibre in their digestive tract will mean they hold and digest their food for longer. They will also have firmer poos, so do not empty out as much.
- Cows should be receiving magnesium before and after they travel. If being fed with supplement, adding 20g/cow/day of magnesium oxide is a standard recommendation. If dusting on pasture, use 100g/cow/day of magnesium oxide.
- On the day of transport, the cows should be removed from green feed 4-12 hours before trucking. They should continue to have access to straw, hay or baleage during the waiting time and must have access to water until loading time.
- If it is possible to stand them on a loafing pad or eaten out pasture then they are able to lie down whilst waiting which reduces the stress on their legs. Pregnant cows should not stand off on concrete for more than 4 hours before travel.
- Once they reach their destination, take them off the yard to their paddock as soon as possible.
- Remember to check for bloat and metabolic problems about two hours after arrival.
- If any cows have injuries such as cuts on their legs, they should be attended to by a vet as soon as possible to enable good healing outcomes.
If the cows are changing feed types after travel, then it is important to plan the feed transition. Discuss your transport plans with your vet who will be happy to help with your preparations.