Livestock Trailer Safety


Towing a livestock trailer is very common on most farms and ranches. Also referred to as stock trailers, livestock trailers are used to move livestock from one location to another, haul show animals to county fairs and transport animals to processing plants.

Towing Safety

Safely towing a livestock requires a towing vehicle that is capable of towing the weight of the trailer plus the added weight of the livestock. The Gross Combined Vehicle Weight (GCVW), which includes the tow vehicle’s weight plus the loaded trailer weight is determined by the manufacturer. The GCVW rating can be found in the vehicle’s serial number or the operator’s manual. Remember to include the weight for fuel, passengers and cargo when calculating the weight.

The maximum tongue weight is the amount of the trailer’s weight that presses down on the trick’s trailer hitch when using a bumper pull trailer or the trick’s bed when using a gooseneck trailer. This amount should be specified in the manual for the trailer. So that only 19% to 15% of the weight is carried on the tongue, the majority of the weight (85% to 90%) should be carried over the axles.

It is important to check both the towing vehicle and the trailer to ensure that they are in good working condition before using a livestock trailer. Additionally, the following actions should be taken:

  • Latches and safety chains: The latches and the safety chains and cables between the truck and trailer should be double-checked to make sure they are securely fastened. Also, make sure you are using a ball that is the correct size for the trailer.
  • Trailer brakes: It is important to also inspect the breakaway cable or brake system. It is recommended by manufacturers that any trailer exceeding 1,000 lbs. have its own brake system, but state regulations regarding brake system requirements should also be checked.
  • Wheel bearings:  The wheel bearings should be repacked on a regular basis and replaced as necessary.
  • Electric Wiring and Connections:  It is important to make sure all the wiring is in good condition as well. Trailer connectors should match the truck connectors. Make sure all the lights (brake light, turn signals, and tail lights) on both the towing vehicle and the trailer are working properly. The electrical connection should also be securely plugged into the towing vehicle.
  • Tires: All the tires should be examined for signs of dry rot, wear, or damage. Also, make sure all tires, including the spare and inside dual tires, have the correct air pressure.
  • Lug nuts: Regularly inspect the lug nuts to ensure they are properly tightened.
  • Trailer: The trailer floor should be inspected to make sure it is sturdy and clean. Install rubber matting if traction is needed. If floor boards are showing sings of wear or rot, consider replacing them.
  • Battery: Make sure that your emergency battery is charged and ready for use if you use battery-powered accessories.
  • Brake controllers: Test your brake controllers and adjust accordingly depending on the weight of your trailer.
    • The first step is to locate the controller or adjuster, typically beneath the instrument panel on the tow vehicle. The controller has an adjustment button (+ or -) and sliding lever. For heavier loads you may need to increase braking power (+) or for lighter loads, decrease braking power (-).
    • Move forward on a level surface and shift the tow vehicle transmission into neutral. To bring the load to a stop using the trailer brakes use the slide lever on the brake controller.
    • If the trailer brakes cause the tow vehicle to jerk, your trailer brakes are adjusted too high. Lower the braking power on the trailer until the trailer comes to a smooth stop. The brake controller must be adjusted to a higher level if the truck and loaded trailer do not slow to a stop.

Loading the Trailer

It can sometimes be a frustrating and difficult task to load animals into a trailer, but there are steps you can take to make the task safer and, ideally, easier. For example, lowering the back of the trailer as much as possible will allow the animals to step into the trailer without having to step up. It is important to be patient and calm during the loading process so that you do not scare or stress the animals. Additional recommendations include the following:

  • Weight distribution: If you are using a bumper pull trailer, place the heaviest animals in the front of the axles. Older and larger animals should be loaded first, followed by younger and smaller animals.
  • Ties: Use slip knots when tying animals in the trailer, and tie securely at head height in the trailer.
  • Visibility:  When you are entering and exiting the trailer, in the trailer and when you tie or tie the animals make sure they can see you.
  • Squeeze and pinch points: It is important to remain alert to the danger of being pinned between animals and trailer sides and being pinched by the trailer gate.
  • Gates: Quickly close the gates once the animals are loaded into the trailer and ensure that they are secure.
  • Protrusions: It is important to inspect the trailer for broken or sharp objects protruding into the trailer. These items should be immediately repaired to prevent an injury from occurring to an animal or operator.


It is important to always maintain a safe speed, keep your headlights on and stay alert when driving on any roadway. When you are towing a full trailer your braking time increases, so maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you and leaving adequate room to stop will prevent a possible accident from occurring. Travel time should planned carefully, being aware of any weather that can cause delays by impacting road conditions and animal comfort.

Do not lock the trailer when you’re transporting animals. In the event of an emergency, rescue workers will be able to more quickly gain access to an unlocked trailer. For your animals’ safety, do not allow them to hang their heads out of the trailer, where they could possibly be hit by flying objects and injured.


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