Livestock Transportation Laws: 28-Hour Law and More

One of the most important laws regarding livestock transportation is called the “28-Hour Law.”

The 28-Hour Law states that animals transported across state lines must be unloaded every 28 hours to provide the animals with 5 hours of rest, watering, and feeding.

The 28-Hour Law was passed in 1873 due to an increased concern for the safety of animals during transport.

28-Hour Law Exceptions and Extensions

Although the 28-Hour Law is straightforward, there are a few exceptions to the rule.

  1. The 28-Hour Law does not apply to air and water transport, or if the carrier provides the animal with access to water, food, and enough space to rest.
  2. Sheep may be kept in a carrier for an additional 8 hours if the 28-hour period ends at night.
  3. Animals can be confined for more than 28 hours when they cannot be unloaded due to “accidental or unavoidable causes that could not have been anticipated or avoided when being careful.”
  4. Animals can be confined for 36 hours when the animal’s owner requests, in a standalone, written document, that the 28-hour period should be extended to 36 hours.

What Happens If You Break the 28-Hour Law?

Breaking the 28-Hour Law will have consequences for each violation. If the 28-Hour Law is violated, the person transporting the livestock will be subject to a civil penalty between $100 and $500. If the law is broken multiple times, they will be charged for each violation.

“On learning of a violation, the Attorney General shall bring a civil action to collect the penalty in the district court of the United States for the judicial district in which the violation occurred or the defendant resides or does business.” (Source | 49 U.S. Code § 80502. Transportation of animals.)

Transporting Livestock Across State Lines: Traceability Requirements

To reduce the response time and increase effectiveness of an animal disease investigation, the USDA establishes requirements for the identification of livestock and documentation for certain interstate livestock transportation.

This traceability law for moving livestock interstate requires that livestock, unless exempted, “must be officially identified and accompanied by an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI) or other movement document.” (Source | 9 CFR Part 86 – Animal Disease Traceability.)

9 CFR Part 86 – Animal Disease Traceability.

What Species of Livestock Require USDA Interstate Traceability?

USDA traceability requirements for interstate transportation of livestock does not apply to all species. The livestock species covered under USDA traceability rules include:

  • Cattle and bison
  • Horses and other equine species
  • Poultry
  • Sheep and goats
  • Swine
  • Captive cervids

All these livestock species must follow USDA traceability requirements.

USDA Interstate Traceability Exemptions

If the livestock being transported interstate is one of the species listed in the previous section, there are still a couple exemptions to the rule that may apply.

According to the USDA, the traceability requirements do not apply to livestock moving:

  • Entirely within Tribal land that straddles a State line and the Tribe has a separate traceability system from the States in which its lands are located; or
  • To a custom slaughter facility in accordance with Federal and State regulations for preparation of meat.


Any other exemptions are applied on a case-by-case basis.

How Much Does It Cost to Transport Livestock?

Livestock transportation is a service used often by farmers for various reasons, such as sending livestock to slaughter or change of ownership, therefore it’s important to know how much it costs to transport livestock.

Livestock hauling rates generally range from $2.00 per loaded mile to $4.50 per loaded mile.

A “loaded mile” is the length of the trip in which the trailer will be loaded with livestock.

Livestock hauling rates can vary depending on the length of the trip, size of the trailer, and size of the load. Smaller trailers (less than 24’) typically cost less per mile, while large, high-capacity trailers can cost more.

Although loaded miles are standard method of costing a livestock hauling job, smaller distances (e.g., less than 100 miles) could be charged hourly or include an additional loading fee. Many livestock haulers also set a minimum price.

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