How to load, how to lead
Trucker talks cattle transportation tips and industry leadership
Posted: June 2, 2016
Rick Sincennes, Picture Butte, Alta.
When cattle trucker Rick Sincennes started in the business more than 30 years it was a different world. Today animal welfare is a profile issue in the public eye, animal activists are putting pressure on producers and the people involved in cattle transportation have an entirely different level of responsibility for themselves and their industry.
The veteran trucker has clear ideas on how to load, and how to lead. As a cattle handling trainer he teaches proper loading techniques. As an industry advocate he has been a significant player in developing today's industry standards.
In the process he has developed strong feelings on how the industry needs to lead. With transportation such a prominent part of the public's exposure to the cattle industry these days, here's his checklist of the key things needed to accomplish that.
Cattle behavior is key. The most important step in loading a trailer is understanding cattle behavior. "For example, know the animal flight zones," says Sincennes. "Stand at the edge of the chute and lean over, and you'll push cattle back. Follow cattle up the chute and walk alongside, and you may think you're chasing them. But you're actually holding everything behind you back."
Cattle will not enter a trailer easily if there is a layer of liquid on the floor. To them it's a lake. They simply don't know how deep it is and won't enter it.
Cattle type is critical. Knowing the type of cattle – beef, dairy, cull animals – and the weight of the animals are the first steps to ease of loading. Knowing the size and height of compartments in a trailer is critical. Animals should be able to stand in a natural position without making contact with the roof.
A key issue for the beef industry is transporting cull cows. "They will not be as strong and will need room and proper bedding to lie down. If you have loaded at too a high a density and animals go down it is very difficult to manage."
The density factors. Loading dairy and cull cattle at the same density as stronger cattle is a mistake. Dairy cattle are usually taller than beef cattle and need special consideration for where they go in a trailer. Sometimes a different trailer is needed.
"There's a huge difference between a 25 foot compartment and one that is two feet shorter," says Sincennes.
Shippers need to lead. So many times truckers load in challenging situations where they are not able to get a good read on the cattle being loaded, says Sincennes.
"We are completely at the mercy of the shipper in those cases," he says. "We need to be able to trust that the shipper has a good knowledge of what we and cattle face."
Driving industry improvements. The cattle industry has made significant improvements over the past 20 years, and the industry has made a real commitment to ongoing improvement.
Those continual improvements are needed, says Sincennes. Two in particular he would like to see. One is more cleanout locations for trailers. Another is easier-to-read density charts for quick reference by truckers in real world situations, especially for newer drivers.
A wake-up call
There are so many improvements in cattle transportation over the past years, says Sincennes. But despite those improvements, there are still those who shirk responsibility. The biggest thing is the feeling by some that when an animal moves on to the next stage of transport that the potential problems move with it.
However, anyone involved with the load can be held responsible, he says.
"The reality is that people involved in transporting cattle need to understand they can be charged for poor handling of animals. The world is watching how we do these things."
More articles related to sustainability leadership in the beef industry are located at the Verified Beef Production website www.verifiedbeef.org.