Tips for stress-free livestock transporting

by Glenneis Kriel, Farmers’ Weekly

Livestock transportation should result in as little stress to the animals as possible, whether they are being transported to the abattoir or other farms. Glenneis Kriel spoke to Dr Dirk Verwoerd and Giepie Bester about best practices when transporting livestock.

Stress your livestock while transporting them and you are likely to end up with unnecessary weight loss, or even bruises or other injuries that could lead to disease, carcass rejections or even mortalities.
Stress during transportation also has a negative impact on meat quality, which will affect your profits in the long term.
According to Dr Dirk Verwoerd, a veterinarian at Karan Beef, animals inevitably lose some weight during transportation, as they do not eat or drink during the trip. The main goal, however, is to ensure that they do not lose weight due to dehydration.
“It’s difficult to give a fixed answer for acceptable weight loss during transportation, as you have to take into account the type of animal as well as its age and condition at the start of the journey,” says Dirk.

How much is too much?
However, it is generally accepted that six- to eight-month-old beef weaners can lose up to 3% of their body weight during the first 100 km and another 1% for each additional 100 km.
“The initial losses are mainly due to gastro-intestinal content and urine,” explains Dirk.
Depending on the condition of the cattle at the start of a trip, and their age, a loss of 8% to 10% of body weight should raise a red flag. A figure such as this indicates that weight loss is caused by intra-cellular dehydration.
Because they are ruminants, cattle usually have enough food in their stomachs to last two days without eating, says Dirk.
This is why the regulations are different for animals with one stomach, such as pigs, which need to have access to fresh water once they have travelled more than 50 km.
Recovery stops will also help to prevent intra-cellular dehydration. “At Karan Beef, we have these stops when cattle are transported for more than 500 km,” says Dirk.
In the case of weaners, each stop typically lasts for two weeks, during which the animals are supplied with water and feed, and are vaccinated. The break also allows the rumen to adapt to concentrates.
“Other large feedlots follow similar strategies. Long-haul cattle have a period of rest, recovery and adaptation in grass camps or irrigated pasture before entering their feedlot phase,” adds Dirk.
Animals transported over very long distances, such as from Namibia or Botswana to South Africa, have to be treated differently.
“The industry codes specify that cattle and sheep may be transported for no longer than 18 hours, after which they need a break of at least two days before the journey recommences,” Dirk explains.
The problem is that this regulation applies only once the animals reach South Africa; it does not take into consideration the distance travelled beforehand or the amount of time spent at border posts.
On arrival at their final destination, such animals should be given enough space to rest and allowed to eat and drink freely.
Giepie Bester, the owner of Besfeld Vervoer, says that animals should be herded into the loading area the day before they are led onto the transport. Prior to loading, they should receive enough food and, particularly, water to prevent dehydration.
“One of the biggest problems we encounter is poor or nonexistent loading facilities,” he says.
“It might be cheap to build a loading facility, but getting it wrong could add stress to animals, lengthen the time it takes to load animals, and even cause injuries to the animals or workers.”
A loading facility should be spacious enough to accommodate the trucks and allow a stress-free flow of animals into the vehicles.
Giepie advises farmers to rent, borrow or buy portable handling facilities – of the right height – if they do not own holding pens.
However, this solution is likely to work only in summer; trucks could get stuck when loading animals from the land in winter.

Do your arithmetic!
The code of practice for the handling and transporting of livestock recommends a carrying density of 1,4 m²/adult cow; 0,3 m²/small calf; 0,4 m²/sheep or goat; 0,3 m²/porker; 0,4 m²/baconer; and 0,8m²/any other adult pig. Different species, genders and ages should preferably not be mixed.
Well-designed partitions will help to disperse the weight of the animals evenly in the trailer and prevent overloading of the axles.
“I used to have a problem at certain weighbridges, where the total weight of the animals was within the prescribed parameters, but one axle was overloaded,” says Giepie. “This problem was sorted out when I started using partitions.”
Farmers should do their arithmetic before deciding to do their own transport, whether for livestock or horticultural products.
“Transportation is a specialised, high-risk field,” cautions Giepie.
“If you want to do your own transportation, first of all calculate the cost of having your own horse and trailer. A double-decker cattle cart with a capacity for 160 cattle, for example, will set you back about R2.5 million, whereas the horse could cost in the region of R1.6 million.
“Next, consider how often you’ll use this transport and whether you have staff that can operate the truck. It won’t pay to buy an expensive truck and trailer and then use it for only a couple of weeks in the year. In addition, you’ll need to operate transport as a separate ‘division’ in your business, otherwise there’s a big chance you’ll lose money. Remember, the trucks need to be maintained and serviced.
“Professional companies such as ours also use technology such as satellite tracking to monitor our trucks. Would you as a farmer have the time or staff to do this?”

Transporting individual animals
Giepie’s advice to farmers who occasionally need to transport individual animals is to buy a trailer with enough space for the animals to turn in. It should also have bedding to help prevent the animals slipping.
“Don’t transport animals on the back of a bakkie. The chances are too high they’ll slip,” he says.
Should you decide to use a contractor – probably the safest way to transport your animals – find someone who does a good job and then stick with them, emphasises Dirk.
The company should not only have the special equipment needed to transport animals safely, but understand the risks associated with livestock transportation and employ drivers who have respect for animals.
“You can’t employ just anybody with a Code 14 licence. The driver needs to have stockman skills and be aware of how his driving affects the animals,” says Dirk.
According to the code of practice for the handling and transporting of livestock, the driver should understand the natural behaviour of the animals he is transporting, such as their visual fields and flight patterns, as well as the appropriate use of flap-sticks, boards and electric prodders.
He should handle the vehicle in such a manner that animals do not slip, fall or get injured, and get his load to its destination within the scheduled time.
He also needs to understand how his driving speed affects the wind chill factor and how this affects dry and wet animals. The danger of pneumonia and death is greatly increased where animals are not sufficiently protected in wet conditions.
“The SPCA can be seen as one of the greatest allies of the livestock industry,” says Giepie.
“For example, there’s a regulation that trucks carrying livestock should be helped within 20 minutes of being stopped at a weighbridge, regardless of the findings at the weighbridge.
If there’s a fine, it has to be served within those 20 minutes.”

Help at border posts
However, stops sometimes take a good deal longer than that, for example, when the SA Revenue Services want to do spot checks at the Namibian border.
According to Giepie, there are cases where these checks have resulted in trucks waiting for longer than eight hours to be inspected, with devastating effect on the animals being transported.
Giepie has found that the best way to deal with such occurrences is to call in the help of the SPCA. “Once you have the SPCA on your side, there’s a lot of pressure on government [officials] to do inspections fast,” he says.
The SPCA can also play a useful role when it comes to the development of new regulations for the transportation of animals.
“There is a new regulation that animals have to be delivered at the feedlot during working hours, between 8 am and 5 pm. Sometimes, however, a driver is late, and we need a way of preventing the animals from having to spend unnecessary time in the trucks,” says Giepie.

View the code of practice for the handling and transport of livestock at



 Securing competitive advantage and advancing investment opportunities in agriculture

South African agriculture still offers many investment opportunities despite headwinds caused by drought in parts of the country and policy uncertainty.
A shocking 2.2% GDP decline in the year’s first quarter was largely the result of agriculture dipping by almost 25%. But the sector is expected to recover rapidly as financing, innovation and expansion kick in during the remainder of the year.
Nico Groenewald, Head of Agribusiness at Standard Bank, says agriculture’s decline is no reason for alarm, as it was largely due to the sector coming off a stellar 2017 fourth quarter. In Q4, it was the leading light of the economy after reaching 37.5%.
The longer-term trend also paints a promising picture. After contracting for every quarter in 2015 and 2016 due to southern Africa’s drought conditions, the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry actually expanded for four consecutive quarters prior to the Q1 data.
While land policy remains contentious, consumer and business confidence is rising. Combined with population growth and urban expansion, this is driving the need for a vibrant agriculture sector. In turn, says Mr Groenewald, sectors higher up the value chain, such as agri-processing, fruit packing and aquaculture, are drawing investor attention – both from within the continent and abroad.
Agriculture’s contribution to South Africa’s economy has declined by almost 8% from the ‘60s onwards. Nevertheless, it’s becoming more crucial to the national economy’s health and it’s also an important source of employment in rural communities for unskilled and seasonal workers. Data from AgriSA shows that the number of people working in agriculture has increased by 29% from 624 000 in 2011 to 881 000 in 2016.
“More needs to happen at commercial and government level for this to be realised,” says Mr Groenewald. “For instance, market-based approaches through a coordinated effort by all stakeholders, including farmers, government, civil society and the private sector need to be leveraged more.”
Scaling the transformation through finance, infrastructure, institutions and monitoring is the recipe for success. For instance, policies that promote digital and financial inclusion will drive the growth of rural entrepreneurs and rural economies.
“While good farm management will help keep pace with digital challenges and opportunities, policy support remains crucial for agriculture to thrive, including those that encompass infrastructure development, energy provision, and improved educational facilities.”
However, under-investment in agricultural research by many countries in sub-Saharan Africa is a concern. South Africa, for instance, allocates less than 1% of its national budget to agriculture, negatively impacting research and development.
“South African agriculture certainly faces challenges, but it also has many opportunities given our well-established trade links with Europe and new markets that are opening in the Far East,” says Mr Groenewald. “Being one of the major food producers in Africa also puts us in an excellent position to capitalise on the growing population and rapidly expanding economies on the rest of the continent.”


The economy of the countryside

by De Wet Barnard, veterinarean on Modimolle (sent in by Morné du Plessis)

One of my very first visits to a farm in Nylstroom went like this:
While I was attending to a horse, the farmer (at that stage everyone that owned land of more than 10 ha, was a farmer in my eyes) asked whether I am seeing a lady, because he has a beautiful daughter he wants to introduce me to. I laughed and said he must first show me a picture of her.
This was a general offer in the countryside, I realised.
A month or so thereafter a beautiful, young brunette with a Daschund under the arm walked into the clinic where I was working. We talked for much longer than was nececitated by the dog’s ailment. I admitted the dog for treatment of an abcess and when I later looked at the patient’s information form, the surname did appear familiar to me. My receptionist informed me that the lady was indeed the daughter of the farmer with the horse.
Two days later I phoned her to find out how the dog was doing, and ‘Oh, yes, your father said the two of us should meet for coffee...’
Our first official date was at the Zeemeeuw Huis in Warmdbad. After dinner I was dragged to my (future) sister-in-law’s house for coffee. Of course the whole extended family was there.
As I was new in the area, coming from the big city, I was not at all familiar with the social dynamics of a small countryside town.
After being asked where in town I live, the conversation turned to the local property market and, of course, estate agents. Due to my recent search for suitable accommodation (my previous addresses being the hospital where I was born, my mother’s house, a student commune and a friend’s flat in Stellenbosch) I felt I could also contribute on the topic, and said: ‘Well, if anyone in this town wants to rent property, they just shouldn’t make use of XXX Properties.’
A deadly silence fell upon us. Someone cleared his throat and suddenly a new topic was under discussion. Months later I would find out I was sitting in the house of the son of the owner of said XXX Properties.
Today, while my assistants were shaving our accountant’s dog to prepare her for sterilazation, I said to them: ‘You better treat this dog nicely, because her owner is the person who calculates our payslips each month.’
Nervous giggles.
My team worked with much more care than I am used to.
The world is small, and a countryside community like ours, even smaller. If you go to the store late on a Sunday morning to get firewood, meat and garlic bread, you better be dressed neatly, because one tends to let your greyer-haired clients’ eyebrows rise when you bump into them and you’re not wearing church clothes like they do.
Here we all know each other, whether you want to or not. In the countryside clients and contacts aren’t mere names on an invoice, but real people whom you are familiar with (or know the gossip stories about).
The cashier at the branch, who rings up the elderly lady’s star-pack chicken, knows that the lady’s husband at home has recently had a stroke and that things are tough. The person from the finance department, who has to grant a loan to a well-known farmer in the district, knows that if there isn’t enough rain this year, the farm will be reposessed by the bank.
Business in the countryside is different. It’s not clients you work with; it’s people. People you know.
And that matters.


Business Jungle: Eagle

by André W. Diederichs

Key business lessons are contained in my book Besigheidsoerwoud.

The 12th lesson that will be discussed refers to how our circumstances and our vision for the future can condition our minds. Our vision for the future can limit our potential, which is connected to the eagle.
For many years now the eagle has been a symbol of power and wisdom amongst nations and can be found on armour and heraldic emblems. Even in the Bible we find various references to the eagle. It is a being that moves with breathtaking speed and that illustrates hunting skills with precision and perfection.
You’ll find various types of eagles throughout the world and the calling of the fish-eagle is as familiar as the lion’s roar in Africa. Just like the lion is considered king of the jungle, the eagle is seen as king of the airways.
Eagles are found at fresh water lakes and rivers and sometimes at the coast, at river mouths as well as in mountainous areas. The average weight of eagles is between 2.5 kg and 6.7 kg and in North America a species of 9 kg was documented.
Just like an eagle, a skilled entrepreneur is a king in his own right. Allow me to introduce the eagle as an excellent example, an amazing creature and an example to all entrepreneurs. Let’s call this creature ‘him’ instead of ‘it’, since he is closely related to ‘eagle-like’ entrepreneurs.
The eagle is king and master of the airways, fearless! When entrepreneurs start thinking and doing like the eagle, they can also become king of their industry.
It is not luck or fate that determines our future destination, that we do ourselves. Like Henry Ford said: ‘Luck and destiny is the world’s excuse for failure.’
The eagle has a clear vision with which no other bird can compete. He can see further than any other living creature, and his sight is not limiting. An entrepreneur also needs clear vision, a picture in his mind, a future vision of where he is heading, of what he or she needs to do and how to be the best that he or she can. Remember, a vision may never be limiting and must always challenge you!
No living creature can move faster than an eagle in full flight. It is said that eagles can fly where Boeings wish they could. Entrepreneurs must also fly high and fast, fearless of any restrictions and boundaries!
Eagles miss no opportunity when they hunt, but they do not hunt every possible opportunity. No, they qualify the most profitable hunting opportunities. Like good hunters they know that each day is a hunting day, but not every day is a day to shoot. Entrepreneurs must also focus their resources on sustainable, profitable opportunities and not momentary profits.
Eagles do not live according to a clock; they start their day early. They make the most of each day. I have never met a sustainable successful self-made entrepreneur who is lazy. No, entrepreneurs work hard and do not lie in bed wasting time while others are making money and building their enterprises.
Although eagles control more than one place within their nesting area, they will in certain circumstances stay in one place that will be utilised year after year.
Entrepreneurs can also focus on one specific market or opportunity if it is sustainably profitable. Should he, however, do business in an area where the needs in the marketplace constantly change, it might be advisable to diversify his business. That way different income streams can be created simultaneously.
A North American Indian illustrated eagle thoughts with an anecdote that makes one think of the importance of how one’s thoughts can determine one’s future. This story is about an eagle that was kicked out of the nest and landed amongst partridges.
The eagle grew up with the partridges and did as partridges did, because that was all he was taught to do. One day an eagle flew over them and the young eagle asked the partridge next to him: ‘Who is that beautiful bird?’
The partridge replied: ‘It’s an eagle, king of the birds, but forget about him, because you are a partridge and could never be an eagle.’
The moral of the story is, he was born to be an eagle, but conditioned to be a partridge. Don’t let that happen to you! Remember, our thoughts dominate our life. What we think determines who we are. Negative thoughts feed negative actions! Your thoughts become your words and your words become your deeds, habits and destination. Like the good Book warns us: Watch your thoughts!

André Diederichs is the owner of André Diederichs & Associates @ Business Jungle and co-founder of FABASA (Family Business Association of South Africa). He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 082 453 3288.


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