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Fit to load

Is the animal fit to load?

When transporting livestock, it’s essential that they are prepared and managed in a way that reduces stress and minimises risks to animal welfare.

Producers, agents, transporters and buyers must understand their roles and responsibilities when transporting livestock to comply with the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for the Land Transport of Livestock and relevant state and territory legislation.

Here, you will find information to help you decide if an animal is fit to be loaded for transport by road or rail.

What is the chain of responsibility?

The chain of responsibility for livestock welfare in the transport process includes:

  1. The consignor for the assembling and preparation of livestock, including the assessment and selection as ‘fit for the intended journey’, feed and water provisions, and time off feed and water before loading.
  2. The transporter for the journey, which involves the loading, including final inspection as ‘fit for the intended journey’, the loading density, inspections, and spelling periods during the journey, and unloading.
  3. The receiver after unloading.

Who is the ‘person in charge’ of animals?

The ‘person in charge’ of animals is responsible for the welfare of the animal(s) under their control and reducing the risk to their welfare.

If the ‘person in charge’ prepares to transport or transports an animal that is unfit, that person commits an act of cruelty upon that animal and may be liable to prosecution under state or territory legislation. As such, it is also unacceptable for any party to coerce or intimidate the ‘person in charge’ into loading an animal that is not fit for the journey.

The ‘person in charge’ of animals changes at different points during the transport process (see table below).

At what point is a ‘person in charge’ of animals?

Person in charge of animals

When the person is responsible


Prior to loading


Loading, unloading and during the journey

Receiver* (e.g. processor, agent, saleyard manager/superintendent)

After unloading

*For more detail on receiver responsibilities refer to

What are the responsibilities of the ‘person in charge’ of animals?

The producer/consignor is responsible for: 

The transporter/driver (except for rail) is responsible for: 

  • mustering and assembling livestock
  • handling prior to loading
  • preparation, including inspection and selection as 'fit for the intended journey' and ensuring all animals are National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) compliant
  • providing feed and water
  • time off feed and water prior to loading
  • providing appropriate loading facilities that are fit for purpose
  • providing advice to the transporter at the point of loading on the fitness of animals and any other information that may be useful or important regarding the animals to be transported
  • completing the necessary transport documentation (e.g. Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) National Vendor Declaration (NVD) or waybill).
  • providing appropriate transport vehicles that are fit for purpose
  • loading, including final inspection (during loading) as 'fit for the intended journey'
  • loading density
  • additional inspections of livestock during transit
  • spelling periods during the journey (i.e. animals are unloaded, rested and have access to feed and water)
  • unloading and alerting the receiver to any welfare concerns detected during transport.


Note: Variations exist between states/territories. Please check relevant state/territory legislation.

How to assess if the animal is ‘fit to load’?

Good animal husbandry

Practicing good animal husbandry ensures that the basic needs of animals are met and is essential for maintaining acceptable animal welfare standards.

Basic needs of animals which must be met

✓           a level of nutrition adequate to sustain good health and welfare

✓           access to sufficient water of suitable quality and quantity to meet physiological needs

✓           social contact with other livestock of the same species

✓           sufficient space to stand, lie and stretch limbs, adequate opportunity to move freely and exhibit normal patterns of behaviour

✓           the facilities, equipment, husbandry and handling procedures used minimise the stress to livestock

✓           the risk of pain, injury or disease is minimised

✓           provision of appropriate treatment including euthanasia if necessary

✓           provision of reasonable precautions against extremes of weather or natural disasters.

Preparing animals for transport

Correctly preparing livestock for transport is a vital part of any journey. Well prepared animals travel better, are less stressed and animal welfare issues are less likely to occur. Remember, if in doubt, leave it out.

Effective practices for preparing for the transport of livestock include:

✓           resting recently mustered livestock prior to loading

✓           co-mingling of animals from different mobs well in advance of the journey

✓           recording and communicating the time off feed and water

✓           competent selection of livestock prior to loading

✓           performing husbandry practices (e.g. horn tipping) well in advance of the journey

✓           planning the journey with consideration given to the length of the intended journey and weather conditions

✓       use appropriate loading facilities that are fit for purpose according to the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Livestock at Saleyards and Depots (see page 27 of the Is the animal fit to load? guide) and the Australian Standard for Livestock loading/unloading ramps and forcing pens

✓      make sure all movement documents and paperwork travelling with the livestock is complete and signed, for example an LPA NVD/Waybill, Animal Health Declarations

✓           knowing who to contact in case of an emergency.