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.
To safely tow a livestock trailer, your truck must be capable of towing the weight of the trailer plus the added weight of the livestock. Check with the manufacturer to determine the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight (GCVW), which includes the tow vehicle's weight plus the loaded trailer weight. The GCVW rating can be located in the vehicle's serial number or in the operator's manual. When calculating the weight, remember to include the weight for fuel, passengers, and cargo.
The manual for the trailer should specify a maximum tongue weight—the amount of the trailer's weight that presses down on the truck's trailer hitch when using a bumper pull trailer or the truck's bed when using a gooseneck trailer. The majority of the weight (85% to 90%) should be carried over the axles so that only 10% to 15% of the weight is carried on the tongue.
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:
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:
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 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.
Click here to view a video about cattle trailer safety from Right from the Start: Safety Awareness for the Next Generation of Livestock Producers series from the Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention, and Education.
Click here to view a video about horse trailer safety from Right from the Start: Safety Awareness for the Next Generation of Livestock Producers series from the Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention, and Education.
For more information about cattle handling, click here to view the article "Beef Cattle Handling Safety."
Livestock trailer safety. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/64391/livestock-trailer-safety.
Harshman, W., Yoder, A., Hilton, J., & Murphy, D. (2011) Loading and towing equipment on a trailer. HOSTA Take Sheet 6.6. The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved from http://www.nstmop.psu.edu/.
Livestock trailer safety. (2012) Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention, and Education. Retrieved from http://www.swagcenter.org/Files/pdf/swag_livestock_trailer_safety_2-12.pdf.
Ross, D. (2011) Take livestock transportation safety seriously. DairyHerd Network. Retrieved from http://www.dairyherd.com/dairy-news/Take-livestock-transportation-safety-seriously-133954798.html.
Smith, K. (n.d.) 14 trailer safety tips. Hobby Farms.com. Retrieved from http://www.hobbyfarms.com/farm-equipment-and-tools/trailer-safety.aspx.