By Temple Grandin
Dept. of Animal Science
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
People manage the things that they measure. The performance of people and the condition of equipment needs to be constantly accredited and measured to maintain high standards. The guide will outline critical control points that can be measured and standard which can be used to train truck drivers.
Excessively steep ramps should be avoided. The recommended slope for a ramp is 20 degrees. Either stairsteps or cleats can be used. On concrete ramps, stair steps that have a 3 ½ in. (10 cm) rise and a minimum tread length of 12 in. (30 cm) are recommended (Figure 1). If cleats are used they should be spaced so that there is 8 in. (20 cm) of space between the cleats. This will fit the stride length of cattle.
Chutes that are used to unload cattle at a packing plant will work best if they have a level floor which is 10 ft. (3 m) to 20 ft. (6 m) long. A level area will prevent wild cattle from jumping off the top deck of a truck onto the ramp. A wide ramp is recommended at a plant to provide cattle with an unimpeded exit. The most efficient ramps for loading large trucks with a 30 in. (76 cm) wide rear door are single file. They should be 30 in (76 cm) wide. The most common mistake is making a single file chute too wide.
Low stock trailers (goosenecks) can be loaded and unloaded without the aid of a ramp. A ramp must be used on vehicles higher than a stock trailer. In new stockyards, unloading ramps can be eliminated by building the yard floor at the same level as the trucks.
It is beyond the scope of this guideline to provide complete design information on loading and unloading ramps. The information provided here answers some of the most commonly asked questions about loading and unloading ramps.
To keep animals calm and move them easily, the handler should work on the edge of the flight zone. He penetrates the flight zone to make the animals move and he backs up if he wants them to stop moving. The best positions are shown on the diagram. The handler should avoid the blind spot behind the animal’s rear. Deep penetration of the flight zone should be avoided. Animals become upset when a person is inside their personal space and they are unable to move away. If cattle turn back and run past the handler while they are being driven down a drive alley in the stockyard, overly deep penetration of the flight zone is a likely cause. The animals turn back in an attempt to get away from the handler. IF the animals start to turn back, the handler should back up and increase the distance between himself and the animals. Backing up must be done at the first indication of a turn back. If a group of animals balk at a smell or a shadow up ahead, be patient and wait for the leader to cross the shadow. The rest of the animals will follow. If cattle rear up in a loading chute, back away from them. Do not touch them or hit them. They are rearing in an attempt to increase the distance between themselves and the handler. They will usually settle down if you leave them alone.
The point of balance is at the animal’s shoulder. Cattle will move forward if the handler stands behind the point of balance. They will back up if the handler stands in front of the point of balance. Many handlers make the mistake of standing in front of the point of balance while attempting to make an animal move forward in a chute. Groups of cattle in a chute will often move forward without prodding when the handler walks past the point of balance in the opposite direction of each animal in the chute. It is not necessary to prod every animal. If the animals are moving through the chute by themselves, leave them alone.
Critical Control Points for measuring the quality of handling and facilities for loading or unloading of trucks. Each CCP is assessed on a yes/no basis for each individual animal.
|Falling Score||1. Percentage of Cattle that Fall Down or Slip
Fall is one of the most serious problems that can occur during loading and unloading. This CCP includes cattle that fall or slip inside the vehicle.
|Speed Score||2. Percentage of Cattle that Move Quietly at a Walk or Trot that do not Run or Jump
|Electric Prod Score||3. Percentage of Cattle Prodded with an Electric Prod
|Cattle Striking Objects||4. Percentage of Cattle that Strike Objects such as a Truck Door, Truck Deck, Gates or Fences.
Rubbing against a flat smooth surface such as the inside of the trailer is not counted.
The following events should be scored as striking an object:
One score is tabulated that includes inside the truck, loading or unloading ramp and pens, fences and gates in the immediate vicinity of the ramp.
|Feedlot Fed Steers or Cows, Avg. Weight English/Metric Units||Horned or Tipped or more than 10% Horned and Tipped English/Metric Units||No Horns (polled) English/Metric Units|
|800 lbs (360 kg)||10.90 sq. ft. (1.01 sq. m.)||10.40 sq. ft. (0.97 sq.m.)|
|1000 lbs (454 kg)||12.80 sq. ft. (1.20 sq. m.)||12.00 sq. ft. (1.11 sq. m.)|
|1200 lbs (545 kg)||15.30 sq. ft. (1.42 sq. m.)||14.50 sq. ft. (1.35 sq. m.)|
|1400 lbs (635 kg)||19.00 sq. ft. (1.76 sq. m.)||18.00 sq. ft. (1.67 sq. m.)|
Driving Methods – Careful driving will help prevent bruises and injuries. It will also help reduce weight losses. Rapid acceleration or sudden braking shuld be avoided because poor driving can cause animals to lose their balance. Air ride suspensions are strongly recommended to provide a smoother ride.
Prompt Unloading – Trucks should be scheduled so that they can be unloaded promptly when they reach the plant. Trucks should be unloaded within 15 minutes after arrival. Non Slip Flooring – A new aluminum trailer has good non-slip footing but cattle start slipping when the diamond plate floor becomes worn. Cattle ride easier on nonslip flooring. One sign of a slick trailer is more manure on the floor. Slipping agitates cattle and causes more elimination. Slipping can be reduced by welding small bars or aluminum mesh on the floor.
Reduce Heat Stress – When the Livestock Safety Index is in the emergency and danger zones, if possible, cattle should be transported at night or in the early morning. In double shifted plants where this is not possible, vehicles must be kept moving because heat builds up rapidly in a parked vehicle. Heat stress is especially a problem when cattle that are acclimated to living in a cold climate are transported to a hot climate.
Prevent Cold Stress – Since cattle are ruminants, animals that have been acclimatized to cold weather can withstand very low temperatures. The most dangerous conditions are freezing rain because it wets the hair and destroys its ability to insulate. During freezing rain conditions, drivers must make sure that sleet is not blowing into the side of the trailer. During a sleet storm it would probably be advisable to pull off and stop to prevent wind chill from stressing or possibly killing the cattle. Dry snow which does not wet the hair coat has much less effect on cattle. Cattle with slick hair coats are acclimatized to warm weather are more sensitive to cold stress. Wind chill can make a trailer very cold. When a truck is moving 50 mph on a 20 degree day, the wind chill factor is minus 23 degrees.
Checking the load – Drivers should check the cattle to make sure no animals have fallen down every time they stop at a weigh station or truck stop. Downed cattle are likely to be trampled and injured. Sometimes an electric prod has to be used to induce the animal to stand because entering the trailer would be dangerous.
Vehicle Maintenance – Both the tractor and the trailer must be kept well maintained. Broken gates, ramps, decks and latches in the trailer must be replaced or repaired.
Vehicle Cleanliness – Vehicles must be washed a minimum of once a week. One study showed that dirty trucks were a source of pathogens that could contaminate the meat. Ideally trucks should be washed daily or after each load. This is especially important if the truck hauls cattle to many different places.
Driver Incentives – Implementation of financial incentives to reduce bruises and weight loss should be used to motivate drivers. Drivers who are financially rewarded will be more willing to handle cattle quietly and to drive carefully.
|Excellent||90% of the trucks start unloading within 15 minutes after arrival. No truck waits longer than 20 minutes.|
|Not Acceptable||75% of the trucks start to unload within 15 minutes but at least one truck has to wait over 60 minutes.|
|Serious Problem||90% of the trucks wait over 60 minutes.|
Prompt unloading can be measured in several different ways. An auditor can spot check it and score the trucks that can be observed in a short period or unloading times can be tallied for all trucks during a week or day.
Scores from the critical control points for handling and trucks should be entered into a computer and compared with scores for bruising, carcass weight and dark cutters. This will enable the plant and the truckers to make continuous improvements which will improve both animal welfare and meat quality. Merging meat quality and transport data can also be used for determining incentive pay for drivers.
Grandin, T. 2007. Livestock Handling and Transport, CABI International (3rd Edition), Wallingford, Oxon, UK. Contains chapters by 17 different authors that review scientific literature on handling and transport.
www.grandin.com. Contains practical information on cattle handling and information on facility design plus training methods in English and Spanish.
National Cattleman’s Association – National Market Cow and Bull Quality Audit, 1999. Englewood, Colorado. Contains NCBA Quality Assurance Marketing Code of Ethics.
National Institute of Animal Agriculture, Bowling Green, KY. www.animal.agriculture.org. Contains training materials in English and Spanish.
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