How Can I Haul Sheep Home?

The great thing about sheep is they are pretty easy to transport. Towing a whole horse trailer here for one or two sheep usually isn’t necessary! (Though you can certainly rent a horse trailer for 4 hours from most local rental agencies for a  modest fee.) The easiest option is to haul them in the back of a pickup truck that has a canopy. If you don’t have a canopy, constructing a wood and/or wire pen in the back of your truck will work as well. People also haul sheep in the back of SUV’s, minivans  or station wagons; often laying down a tarp and shavings to protect the carpet. It even works to have them stand in on the floor in the front or back seat in a sedan, if it’s not a long drive.

Hauling them in dog crates can be practical, as long as you have the right sized crate. Lambs 90 lbs and under will fit in a Labrador Retriever-sized crate (a “400” Vari Kennel size). Mature ewes need a “500” crate, which is sized for giant dog breeds like Great Danes or St. Bernards. Lambs can be lifted by one person, but mature ewes take two people to lift into a pickup.

Mature rams usually need a bigger box, as they are over 200 lbs.  They are also harder to lift into a high pickup bed. What has worked here is to load them onto my sheep stand, which has a hand-crank winch to raise it up. We can get it close to the height of a pickup bed, then lift the ram, front end first, then hind end, into the bed.

Please note that sheep loaded for hauling off our farm must be transported in such a way as they are able to both stand and lie down, for their welfare during transport. We do not allow sheep to leave here “hog-tied”.

If hauling in a pickup bed, make sure you have a very secure structure with tie-downs, so that you don’t risk losing your sheep on the highway. Better safe than sorry, as you’d never catch them if you lost your load in the road. Fearful sheep can jump pretty high, so don’t neglect making sure the top/lid of your pen is solid. It’s best if the sides of the enclosure are somewhat solid, so that the sheep are protected from wind and too much visual stimuli, to reduce stress. If transporting bred ewes, be especially careful, as stress can induce fetal loss, especially in the first few months of pregnancy.

Herd animals feel comforted when they are “snug”, so best to err on the side of squeezing them in rather than having them try to maintain balance while riding in a big open space. Some people halter-tie them to help stabilize them. It’s great if you can see them in your rear-view mirror, to monitor their welfare during a long drive if they are tied.

When you get home, help the sheep down if they are jumping from a high truck bed, to reduce the stress on their front legs when landing. Try to unload them straight into a secure pen, so that you don’t risk them escaping upon arrival. They are usually fairly stressed and flighty when they arrive at their destination, so it’s not a great time to have one get loose! If they are in a small pen together for a few days, they will acclimate and learn who feeds them and where, then they can be exposed to a larger living area.