You’ve found your dream property, now there are hard decisions to be made about your livestock. Discover things you need to consider and decisions to make now to keep you, your family, and your livestock from being overwhelmed with stress.
The toughest decision that has to be made is on which of the livestock will move with you and who will be re-homed. It takes careful planning to move livestock without creating a lot of stress on them.
The individual health of each animal, the distance they will have to travel, the expense of moving livestock, and emotional attachments which are priceless.
Practicalities in Moving Livestock to New Homestead Land
Old-timers say, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” The care and well-being of our livestock during a move is directly related to the distance they will have to travel.
Distance will influence your decisions on which livestock moves with you and which does not. I learned the hard way, if you are moving to a new climate, the stress of a long-distance move will be harder on them while acclimating to a new climate.
Large livestock has a harder time traveling long distances. For example, horses need to be taken out of the trailer and walked around at regular intervals. Some people who transport horses say they take their horses out for a stretch every 4 hours.
I have an acquaintance who hauls horses for shows and rodeos. He says they don’t let their horses out for breaks. He says in his 14 years of experience he’s found “it more stressful for the horses when let out and reloaded every few hours.”
He gave some practical tips for us that he follows when moving livestock, especially horses, long distances.
- Make the trip in no more than 12 hour stretches and allow the horses a full 10 hours off the trailer overnight.
- He recommends Do Not tie them while in transport to allow them to move their heads freely and ensure they can keep their airways clear.
- Keep water available for them as they travel and check them at every stop.
- He recommends you take extra-long gas, bathroom, and meal breaks to allow the horses to rest in the trailer without movement.
We’ve moved a few times with chickens and they seem to be better suited to moving than larger livestock. It’s important they have water available while traveling. Be sure they have hay to lay eggs in, although the stress of moving may cause them to not lay for a few days. Food should be offered at night when traveling is finished for the day.
I hope to never have to move goats or cows again. It was stressful for them and for us.
Preparing For Their Arrival at the New Homestead
If your new homestead has outbuildings or fenced pastures already in place, that’s great. If not, you’ll need to have a place prepared to house the animals when they arrive.
It can be a staging area of some sort of temporary electrical or other fencing, picket lines, or corrals.
Livestock of all kinds need to be confined for a few days, even if they’re used to free-ranging. This allows them some recovery time from the journey and you the opportunity to monitor them for injuries or stress related. Be sure they have food, water, and shelter.
It’s a good idea to set up temporary housing in the same area you are going to put them permanently. This allows them to know where their food, water, and bedding are.
If you are moving your chicken’s coop to the new homestead, they will only have to be shut up for a day, two at the most. If they are getting a new coop, it may be best to leave them closed in around it in a temporary yard for a week or so to let them learn that it is their new home.
Because things aren’t always ideal, design the box or crate, whatever you are carrying them in, to be a place for them to stay in until their new coop is ready.
I have never moved farther than 158 miles with chickens. We moved them in a small enclosed trailer where they could stand and move around a little, but they could not fly up or have room to fight one another.
The Day Before the Move
Keep your routine as normal as possible for any livestock that will be transported.
When your chickens have gone to sleep or before they wake up in the early morning, transfer them to whatever they will be traveling in. They are like zombies when asleep so they won’t care about your handling them. This will cut down on their stress and yours by not having to try to catch them to put them where they need to be.
The Day of the Move
All other livestock should not be loaded until an hour before the journey begins. This will help decrease their stress.
Be sure they are familiar with the loading process and the trailer. If the trailer is new or one they haven’t experienced loading and unloading with, they would benefit from a little practice before the day of the move.
I’ve been asked, “Can you scare a chicken to death?” I can’t say for certain if a chicken can be scared to death, but I have experienced chickens dying suddenly from stress.
The effects of stress are serious on every living thing. A cow may stop giving milk or experience stomach distress. Stress affects every animal in a different way, much like it does us.
Provide water at all times. It’s better to not feed animals until you stop for the night. In many cases, they will refuse to eat at all while traveling. They can go a few days without it if necessary.
If any of your livestock is traveling in an enclosed crate or trailer, be sure they have plenty of airflow. They will overheat and experience higher stress levels if they don’t have enough room, water, and air. They may even die.
Provision for the Journey
By the time all of the livestock is ready to roll, everyone is stressed and anxious from all of the preparations for humans and livestock alike.
Remember, animals ready our energy. Keep positive energy and a good attitude to help both people and animals around you feel more relaxed and secure.
Keeping calm and positive will give you a clear mind. This is important so the decisions you make are the right ones and your responses are appropriate to the situations. You know the rule, there is always something unforeseen and it will be seen.
You can use essential oils in a diffuser designed for vehicles, play relaxing music, or have fun conversations with those traveling with you. Be sure you stay hydrated as well.
Protect your livestock from sun, wind, rain, or snow. Take turns and curves as easily as you can. Our Roxie gets car sick if we go too fast on twisty roads. If arriving safely means taking a little longer, it will be worth it when you all get home safe and sound.
In “Helping Livestock Adjust to New Homestead Land”, we’ll consider what needs to be done for your livestock once you arrive.
We’re homesteaders, not livestock handlers. Those are just good and produce we’re transporting, they are part of our homestead team. Reminding ourselves of this will help with the stress. It will also enable us to make the right decisions for ourselves and those depending on us.
Do you have experience moving livestock to a new homestead? Share with us.