Tips for Transporting Livestock from a Veterinarian

Basics of moving livestock off the farm and building your reputation as a producer of good stock by getting them where others will see them.

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by Unsplash/Harry Grout

If you breed livestock on your farm, sooner or later some of those critters are going to need to leave the property. Whether for shows or sales, building your reputation as a producer of good stock means getting them where others will see them. So let’s cover the basics of moving livestock off the farm and what you need to know, from the perspective of a veterinarian who writes those pesky Certificate of Veterinary Inspections (CVIs).

Transporting Livestock within a State

black cow in a field

Planning for a show or sale should start several months before the event. If the destination is in the same state where you live, contact your local Department of Agriculture and ask what the requirements for intrastate movement are for your state:

  • Will you need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI or health certificate)?
  • What sorts of permanent ID are acceptable for the species of livestock you are moving?
  • Does any testing or vaccination need to be complete prior to departure

Horses may need an Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) test. Cattle coming from an area where diseases like TB or Brucellosis are a problem may need to be tested or vaccinated.

Check with agencies. If you’re heading to another state, check with that state’s Department of Agriculture. You may also ask your veterinarian’s office, but be prepared to do some of the legwork yourself, especially if you’re headed a longer distance. The office may not be accustomed to what’s needed for your destination.

Even if you’ve shipped livestock to that destination before, check for any new requirements. It’s always best to make sure you’re up to date, rather than to rely on what was true a few years ago.

black goat standing in a dry field

Schedule necessary tests or vaccines with your veterinarian. Leave a reasonable window of time for getting it done. Samples must be sent to the lab, and in some cases, the original paperwork returned before the animals can leave. While you’re doing that, ask if they recommend any specific treatments or preventative measures for animals that will be traveling. I, for instance, am a big fan of using a good probiotic to minimize stress-related symptoms.

Check that each animal has the appropriate form of identification required by your state, your destination, the exhibition site, and the sale site. Have all of that identification information, proof of all tests and vaccines, copies of registrations papers if you will need them, and addresses for your destination ready for your veterinarian when you make the appointment for the CVI. If you’re using a shipping service, have all of their information available as well.

Don’t leave scheduling your CVI appointment until the last minute. Your veterinarian is likely to be very busy. And some states will require a permit number that must go on that certificate. So allow for time for your veterinarian to contact the destination state and obtain it.

Prepare Your Trailer and Route

 As your departure date gets closer, inspect your trailer. Is everything in good repair? Do you have it set up for sufficient ventilation in hot weather, or with enough shelter in very cold weather? Is it set up to correctly handle the number of animals you intend to take?

Check your route ahead of time. Make sure there are no construction projects or road closures that might affect your trip. Don’t just check your intended route, but also look at alternatives. Be prepared in case an unexpected traffic problem or weather events force you to reroute. If you are going a very long distance, is there somewhere you can stop along the route to rest and unload your stock?

On the day of departure, load your stock with as little fuss as you can. Double-check to be sure that you have all the necessary paperwork with you. In fact, it’s a good practice to make a packing list of everything you need and check things off as you load them.

Holly Stockley is a veterinarian and heritage-breed genetic biodiversity steward in Western Michigan, where she and her husband are restoring 10 acres of neglected land that includes a walnut plantation. She participates in the Lost Apple Project – Midwest and has started a small orchard of heritage apple varieties, teaching herself to graft. Find Holly at and listed to her Vintage Americana Podcast. Connect with her on Instagram @brambleberrymeadow and @vintageamericanapodcast.

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  • Updated on Sep 13, 2021
  • Originally Published on Sep 12, 2021
Tagged with: Holly Stockley, livestock, Michigan, transportation, travel