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Water, Food and Rest

Water, feed and rest are essential to all living animals, but these needs vary considerably. Livestock drivers must apply basic stockmanship skills to ensure that animals are watered, fed and rested appropriately. Maximum permitted journey times are often set down by law.


Water requirements decrease with:

  • moist food (e.g. lush grass);
  • colder weather;
  • non-lactating animals.

Water requirements increase with:

  • dry feed (e.g. hay/concentrates);
  • hot weather.

All animals should have access to fresh, clean water up to the point of loading.

When loading from markets or collecting points, be aware that the animals may not have had water for some time. Offer water before you start loading. The following is a guide to animals’ normal requirements:



Water requirements (litres/day)

Adult pigs


Adult sheep


Adult cattle


Milking cows



Animals not drinking normally may be ill or severely distressed.

On short journeys it is not a requirement to give animals water en route – indeed, if offered they would be unlikely to take it. As journey length increases, so the animals’ needs will increase and they should be watered at appropriate breaks.

Signs of dehydration are:

  • Pale gums
  • Reduced skin elasticity
  • Licking surfaces

If in doubt offer water. Pigs are more prone to dehydration than ruminants. On arrival at your final destination offer fresh, clean water.


Feeding requirements for livestock will depend on the species and journey length.

Pigs are monogastrics, the stomach is quickly filled and emptied and it is better to feed them regularly. Cattle and sheep are ruminants, with a complex digestive system which releases energy over a long period of time. They are more able to cope with longer periods of time without food.

  • Pigs:

Withdraw food before transport

Limit transport times

  • Sheep/Cattle:

Transporting off pasture can produce dirty animals

Take off grass before loading and feed small quantities of hay or straw

Cattle and sheep will usually eat in preference to drinking. Feeding mid-journey, where a stop is for less than eight hours, may result in dehydration.


All animals must be ‘rested’ for 24 hours before a journey begins. The maximum times that animals can be transported are often specified by law.

On long journeys, if given sufficient room, pigs, sheep and calves will lie down in the moving vehicle.

Adult cattle prefer to stand. After 10-14 hours they will show signs of fatigue and should be rested for a minimum of eight hours before being transported again.

Short stops on vehicles will give animals respite from the motion of the vehicle. However, this does not give them a real opportunity to ‘rest’.

Key points: Water, feed and rest are essential to an animal’s wellbeing. Requirements will vary depending on the species, previous feed and water patterns, and the intended journey.

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