Transporting livestock

Most smallholders will need to transport animals at some time or another. Like any other farmer, we are required to comply with the relevant legislation.

EU legislation covering the transportation of all vertebrate animals changed in 2007 and UK legislation now reflects this, through The Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 and parallel legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The aim of the legislation is to ensure:

that no animal shall be transported unless it is fit for the intended journey, and all animals shall be transported in conditions guaranteed not to cause them injury or unnecessary suffering.

The legislation defines good transport practices such as:

  • The journey should be properly planned so that it takes the minimum time possible
  • Animals should be checked and their needs met during the journey
  • Animals must be fit to travel both before and during the entire journey. The definition of an “unfit animal” includes very young animals as well as those that are sick or injured
  • The vehicle and the means of loading and unloading must be designed, constructed and maintained so that injury and suffering are avoided
  • Only trained and competent persons should handle the animals and no violence or methods likely to cause unnecessary fear, injury or suffering should be used
  • Animals must be given rest, food and water as required
  • Animals must have sufficient floor space and height

Animals that cannot be transported

  • Unfit animals - A full explanation of what is expected in terms of fitness for transport is given in Chapter 1 of Annex 1 of the Regulation
  • Very young animals - (i.e. calves of less than 10 days of age, pigs of less than three weeks and lambs of less than one week) except if the journey is less than 100 km
  • Calves of less than 14 days of age - journeys exceeding 8 hours will not be permitted
  • Pregnant female animals will not be considered fit for transport if they have reached the latest stage of gestation (within 10% of the estimated time of the gestation before birth) and for a period of one week after giving birth
  • Cats and dogs under 8 weeks of age may not be transported commercially, unless accompanied by their mother

In truth, most of this will be self-evident to the competent and caring smallholder, who will apply such good practice whether or not legislation is in place. However, the legislation does not apply across the board.

Am I covered by the legislation?

If you are transporting animals in connection with an economic activity, then the legislation applies. An “economic activity” is defined as being part of a business or commercial activity that is designed to result in financial gain for any person or company involved in the transport, whether directly or indirectly.

You are not covered by the legislation if:

  • While transporting the animals, you are not doing so in the course of business or trade or it is not for hire or reward
  • You are transporting the animal(s) to or from a veterinary practice or clinic on the advice of your vet
  • The owner or another responsible person is accompanying a single animal (or two people accompany two animals etc). For these purposes, a female animal with offspring at foot count as one animal
  • You are a hobby breeder where the income from your hobby does not exceed the associated expenses
  • You are accompanying your pet animals on a private journey
  • You are taking a pet animal to show primarily for pleasure
  • You are a farmer transporting your own animals, in your own vehicle on a journey of less than 65km


If you ARE covered by the legislation, then you must comply with it. The main requirement is that you hold an Animal Transporter Authorisation (ATA). There are two types:

Type 1 is for journeys of over 65km that take up to eight hours. Journey time is the time from the first animal loaded to the time the last animal is unloaded at the destination. Distance is that actually travelled not “as the crow flies”. Authorisation will be granted, and will be valid for 5 years, if transporters comply with the following:

  • The transporter has an established business or, in the case of businesses established outside of the UK, is represented in the country
  • The transporter can demonstrate that they have appropriate staff, equipment and operational procedures to transport animals in compliance with the new Regulation
  • The transporter has no record of serious infringements of animal welfare legislation in the 3 years preceding application

Type 2 covers all other journeys including all those taking more than eight hours. The requirements covering Type 2 Animal Transporter Authorisations (ATA) are much more demanding than Type 1 and include written contingency plans, the requirement to carry feed and liquid and a requirement to be able to trace and contact vehicles and drivers.

In addition, from January 2007, road vehicles used for transporting animals on journeys over 8 hours must be inspected and have a Vehicle Approval Certificate, which lasts for five years. A Type 2 ATA automatically covers all Type 1 journeys.
You must carry your ATA or a copy of it whenever you are transporting animals.

For both Type 1 and Type 2 ATAs, transporters and handlers must undertake appropriate training and for Type 2 ATA, a Certificate of Competence is required. The following independent bodies are designated by Animal Health to assess competence.

In England and Wales

NPTC, Part of City and Guilds Group

Tel: 024 7685 7300

Lantra Awards

Tel: 024 7641 9703

In Scotland

Scottish Skills Testing Service

Tel: 0131 333 2040

Obtaining an ATA

Animal Transport Authorisations are available for Scotland, England and Wales from Animal Health on 0845 603 8395. There is currently no charge for ATAs (Nov 2010).

Local Authorities have the prime responsibility to enforce welfare during transport legislation. Animal Health veterinary inspectors also have powers to ensure compliance with the legislation.

Construction and maintenance of vehicles for transporting livestock

Part of complying with the regulations is ensuring the vehicle or trailer you are using to transport livestock is fit for purpose and properly cleaned and maintained.

Shiny trailerKeep your livestock trailer cleaned, disinfected and maintained

The main requirements of the rules for the cleaning and disinfecting of livestock vehicles are very straightforward:

  • After unloading the animals, the vehicle must be fully cleansed and disinfected as soon as is reasonably practicable, before the vehicle is used again and in any case within 24 hours after it has been unloaded,
  • Wheels, wheel arches and mud flaps must always be cleansed and disinfected whenever the vehicle is cleansed and disinfected.

This is part of good practice for disease control, and many abattoirs will have facilities on-site for cleaning trailers, allowing you to comply before leaving.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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