Fitness for Transport


Source: National Farm Animal Care Council Code of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals – Dairy Cattle, Section 5.1.1

An effective herd health management program should minimize the number of compromised animals that need to be transported.

Compromised animals are animals with a reduced capacity to withstand the stress of transportation, due to injury, fatigue, infirmity, poor health, distress, very young or old age, impending birth, or any other cause. By following sound principles of herd health management most cases of compromised animals can be avoided (refer to Section 3.4).

Never transport an animal unless you are sure it is healthy enough to handle the stress of the entire expected trip (including intermediate stops). If you are not sure an animal is fit for the trip, contact your herd veterinarian.

If you take steps to prevent additional injury or undue suffering, you may move some compromised animals using special provisions such as:

  • transport for immediate slaughter directly to the nearest appropriate slaughter establishment, keeping transport time to a minimum
  • shipping in a separate compartment with ample bedding.

Please note that your transporter may charge an additional fee to provide this additional care.

On the advice of a licensed veterinarian, you can transport a non-ambulatory animal to a veterinary clinic for treatment or diagnosis. If this is the case, you should request written authorization from a licensed veterinarian and provide a copy of it to your transporter.

Some animals are completely unfit for transport. In this case, you must delay transport until the animal is fit for the trip if it is humane to do so (for example, when an animal has recently given birth). If delaying transport could result in undue suffering, and if the animal is unlikely to recover on its own, the animal must either be treated or euthanized on site (refer to Section 6 – Euthanasia).

Non-ambulatory animals, animals with a low body condition score indicating emaciation or weakness (seeAppendix E – Body Condition Scoring Chart), or animals with severe lameness, would endure unnecessary suffering during the transportation process and must not be transported, except for veterinary treatment or diagnosis, on the advice of a veterinarian. This is true of any condition which would subject the animal to unnecessary suffering due to transport.

“Non-ambulatory” means unable to stand without assistance or to move without being dragged or carried, regardless of size or age. Non-ambulatory animals are also called “downers.”

Producers have a primary responsibility for determining if an animal is fit for the expected duration of the trip. While the carrier or the driver should not be relied upon to determine whether an animal is compromised or unfit for transport, they have the right and responsibility to refuse to load an animal that they recognize as unfit.


Every animal must be assessed before being transported – Refer to Appendices G – Guidelines for Dealing with Compromised Animals, and H– Should this Animal be Loaded?

Non-ambulatory animals, animals with body condition score indicating emaciation or weakness, or animals with severe lameness must not be transfported, except for veterinary treatment or diagnosis.

Do not transport animals that are likely to give birth during the intended journey.

Do not transport cattle that require hobbling in order to walk.


  1. refer to Appendix G – Guidelines for Dealing with Compromised Cattle, for information on the categories of lameness
  2. identify less severe conditions early so that animals can be treated or shipped, as appropriate, before a condition worsens
  3. consult with the herd veterinarian in making decisions about cull animals. Evaluate fitness for transport in the context of each trip including relevant factors, such as the anticipated total trip duration from farm to final destination and prevailing weather conditions (e.g., compromised animals are more likely to suffer adverse effects of hot humid weather). For example, an animal that is fit for a short journey direct to an abattoir may not be fit for marketing through an auction
  4. refer to Appendix H – Should This Animal Be Loaded?, for further guidance on determining fitness for transport
  5. compromised animals should be shipped directly to an abattoir, not through auction markets.