Keeping cattle trailers clean

Keeping cattle trailers clean is a good way to practice biosecurity when hauling cattle. 

Hauling cattle is a good opportunity to make sure producers are practicing good biosecurity, Grant Dewell says.

Dewell, the Iowa State University Extension beef veterinarian, says making sure trailers are properly cleaned out can make a big difference. It can especially be important when working with custom livestock haulers who haul from a variety of herds.

“If you’re buying cattle and you’re hiring a commercial carrier to transport your cattle, you want to make sure their trucks are cleaned,” he says.

Producers should clarify that with their commercial carriers before having their cattle hauled.

“That agreement is up front, ‘before you haul my cattle, that trailer is cleaned out,’” Dewell says.

There are a variety of viruses to be concerned about when transporting cattle, as well as foot and mouth disease, which is always a concern even if it never actually becomes an issue for producers.

“The biggest one would be foot and mouth disease,” he says, “which thankfully we don’t have. But we want to be safe.”

It “just kind of depends” how often cattle haulers should disinfect their trailers, Dewell says. For commercial carriers who haul every day, frequent disinfecting is a good idea.

“If you’re hauling every day, two or three trips a day, you probably need to be disinfecting quite a bit,” he says.

Disinfecting the trailer once a week can be a good idea for people who haul cattle frequently or almost every day.

Dewell says for people hauling their own cattle, and hauling less frequently, just cleaning out the trailer with water is a good step.

“Generally, a good hose-down is going to be sufficient,” he says. “If you’re hauling on your own, (disinfecting) is probably less of a deal.”

Commercial truck washes can be very effective, Dewell says, although they are often geared toward people hauling swine.

“The commercial truck washes are nice,” he says. “A lot of those are geared to the swine guys and the specific standards they have. But they can be good (for all).”

Producers only hauling their own cattle may not need to go to a commercial truck wash, but the focus for them when cleaning trailers is getting all the old material out, Dewell says.

“If you’re hauling on your own from the sale barn to the feedlot, just hosing it down should be good,” he says. “The key is to get all the organic matter out.”

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Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.