Hauling Livestock: Buying a Safe Trailer for Animals

Go to almost any show and you’ll see long beautiful immaculate trailers with farm names on them. While you might not show there is good reason to have a trailer for your animals and it need not cost you $30,000+.

Even if you don’t show for anyone with large animals there will come a time you will have to transport them. Do not rely on a neighbor, friend or relative for this. That may work in some situations but in many it can be fatal to your animals. You should be able to load your animals quickly and get gone – practicing this can save lives in the case of storms or, more recent crisises, fire. Having a way to get your animals OUT is essential. If you use it one time and that’s the time isn’t it worth it? If you have a dozen goats, a dozen chickens, a pair of geese and two large guardian dogs – and a pickup – who gets left behind to face fire or floodwaters? With a modest livestock trailer you can load the whole ark and be gone – with all being safe.

Choose a trailer with your needs in mind. If it’s emergency evacuation – do you have room for grain storage *outside* of reach of the animals. Is there adequate ventilation? Do not rely on movement to insure ventilation – if you’re broke down for a half hour changing a tire you don’t want to lose animals, and of course vehicles break down. Have your trailer to fit the species you’re hauling. A goat breeder outfitted a special trailer designed for tall horses with two decks. The top super solid deck could hold animals up to about 40-50#…if you use this option make SURE it’s heavy enough! Remember if you put 10 50 pound kids there you have 500 pounds – and the movement of the trailer plus any bedding and other items. Make sure the braces and posts are heavy enough so the deck doesn’t come down on the animals below. If you have a mixed animal barnyard you might use this idea, run poultry wire along the inside of the upper rails and it’s a safe place to haul poultry, out of the way of getting stepped on by larger animals. Chickens, ducks, guineas, even turkeys and geese could fit here. Make sure in your design it’s secure to keep animals in but also easy for you to clean. Moving animals is stressful – and stressed animals are at increased risk of getting sick. A clean, sanitary trailer goes a long ways towards an easy trip.

Rubber mats are common for many species – they make the trailer an easier ride and easier to clean. If you are looking to purchase a used trailer pull these up and look carefully underneath! Take a screwdriver or small knife and in several places gently stick the wood to test for dry rot. A good floor is absolutely important. No matter what the trailer looks like externally – a horse putting a foot through a floor can make him or her distrustful of trailers at best. At worst it’s a disastrous highway accident resulting in long recovery or euthanasia. If the trailer has a ramp make sure that, too, is checked over as well as the floor.

Equally check very carefully the hitch. Look for weaknesses in the connection and note what size ball you’ll need to hitch to. These two things and ventilation should be make or break items on any purchase and are non negotiable. If you settle on a trailer with a floor that needs replaced be sure to have it marked down the amount you’ll need to make it right. Tires can be replaced; wiring can be redone; paint can be changed. Ask for maintenance records – if there are none before hauling anything make sure the bearings are checked and a basic safety check.

Make sure the trailer is tall enough – expecting a 16.3 hand horse to squeeze into a trailer that’s 6′ high is inviting injury and accident. Consider not only the height but the legnth. On the other hand if you have small livestock that 6′ trailer might be ideal. Check closely the inside of the trailer for sharp areas that could hurt animals. If there’s a tack compartment, check that closely for areas that show excessive wear. If you have small animals consider partitioning the feeder area for small animals and alter it for a double door – a wire or screen type door of some sort so you can open the outer door if need be and allow more ventilation while stopped.

A good, safe trailer can be found in many areas for under $1800…and often half of that! Surely that’s worth the cost of saving your animals.

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