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A lifetime in livestock transport

20 March 2024

In 1958, Gordon Martin started the first of the Martin Group of Companies (Martins) carting livestock in the Singleton/Maitland area of NSW. In 1961, he started carting gravel for the Merriwa Shire and the foundation of the Martins transport business was established.

Gordon Martin has always stood by the value of teamwork.

“It may be my name on the door, but the success of this company relies on the fantastic team that is Martins,” Gordon said.

That ethos has underpinned the development and growth of Martins Stock Haulage (MSH) to become one of Australia’s largest carriers of sheep and cattle.

It’s difficult to drive anywhere in NSW, Queensland or Victoria without seeing one of Martins’ mustard-coloured livestock transport vehicles. With depots in Dubbo, Scone and Oakey, they cover the Australian continent and operate multiple vehicle combinations, from triple road trains, through every configuration down to single trailer sheep and cattle crates. 

Supporting drivers

The philosophy behind MSH has been to deliver consistent and reliable service to its clients, while at the same time, directing equal focus to the safety and wellbeing of its employees.   Behind the drivers is a large support team of mechanics, workshop staff and office and field personnel that coordinate and support daily operations, moving livestock around Australia.

Martins has grown to a workforce of 160 and operates a large number of trucks across the nation. Martins doesn’t promote the scale of their business, but the frequency of vehicles seen on the road reflects a large-scale transport operation, particularly moving cattle between farms, feedlots and abattoirs. They’re an essential part of the red meat supply chain in Australia.

Adam Ross, General Manager of MSH, says caring for its people as well as livestock is a top priority.

“We operate a fleet of well-maintained, modern trucks that are designed and equipped with the latest technologies and mechanical innovations to make the journey as smooth as possible. We also invest in our drivers and their safety and comfort to make sure they’re in the best possible condition to be operating heavy vehicles. This industry is about looking after the animals and also the people,” Adam said.

Safety first

Driver safety is front and centre at MSH. The Executive and Management team at Martins have lobbied hard through their member associations for the introduction of ‘livestock ramp standards’, supporting driver safety, whilst loading and unloading livestock.

“This is where the majority of injuries occur and we’re working hard with other industry representatives to make improvements in this space,” Adam said.

An important company belief is that if Martins can make their clients successful, this will have a positive flow-on effect on Martins’ ongoing development and success. They do this by applying the key principles of:  

  • meeting commitments, providing cost effective service and creating value for clients
  • Martins as a company is only as good as the Martins team
  • we are never at the destination – continuous improvement is essential
  • Martins’ success is directly linked to how we manage animal welfare, health and safety, the environment and corporate governance.

“The livestock transport process starts with preparation and it’s a team effort between the producer, the transport operator and everyone else involved in the process.

“It’s important that as many people as possible are across best practice principles of livestock transport.

“That includes producers, drivers, agents and saleyards. The Transport Hub has some really useful information for people in the livestock industry,” Adam said.

Setting livestock up for a good transport experience

Adam emphasises the effectiveness of key on-farm practices that producers can apply to optimise the welfare and quality of their livestock.

“Producers go to a lot of trouble to turn off quality livestock and our role is to get them to their destination as efficiently and smoothly as possible. We want to ensure the quality of those animals is preserved and not compromised,” Adam said.

Good preparation starts at the farm or feedlot and sets livestock up for a good transport experience.

“Ideally sheep and cattle should be well-handled and familiar with people and vehicles so they’re less stressed when it comes time to truck them off the farm.

“It’s not always possible in more extensive and remote places, but these days most producers are well aware of the importance of handling cattle quietly and bringing them near or to the yards a few days before transport,” Adam said.

Cattle that have been run in straight out of the paddock tend not to travel as well. It’s better to have cattle yarded a day or two prior to transport, at least in a holding paddock, where they’re given clean water and access to good quality dry hay.

“We want them fit and strong for the intended journey so there are minimal issues on the truck. Well prepared animals rarely present any issues.”

Building community

MSH is committed to delivering the best service it can and also supports a number of livestock associations, the Young Auctioneers Competition, camp drafting and various other horse competitions.

“We’re a community-focused company that’s proud of the service we deliver to the livestock industry,” Adam said.  

Martins is a member of TruckSafe, NHVAS and is a strong advocate for transport industry safety, employee health and wellbeing standards.

“Fatigue management in particular is a big focus to ensure our drivers are safe, the animals are safe and the broader public are also safe.

“We’re also actively pushing for better outcomes in the environmental space regarding effluent management and biosecurity risks,” Adam said.