Cleaning a cattle trailer

Whether using a small trailer to drive five pigs to the slaughterhouse or a large truck to get to the pasture: All livestock trailers should be cleaned and disinfected in a similar manner no matter their size. After all, only cleanliness and good hygiene during transportation of cows, pigs and poultry prevents the transmission of pathogens between animals or onto humans.

Livestock trailer

The legislation regarding cleaning animal transporters

Animal transportation vehicles are an essential part of the food production supply chain. Cleanliness and hygiene play an important role and are therefore regulated in the UK through the Transport of Animals (Cleansing and Disinfection) Order. For example, the order forbids the transport of animals in vehicles which have not been cleaned and disinfected since the last journey. It also gives the requireded level of cleanliness and methods used when disinfecting and cleaning animal transporters are also given.

Legal requirements for cleaning cattle trailers

The procedure of cleaning a cattle trailer

Straw, sawdust or other bedding material must be used at the bottom of a trailer when transporting animals. The bedding prevents animals from slipping in the vehicle and it helps to stop urine and faeces from leaking out during longer journeys. The dregree of soiling depends on how long the animals have been in the transport. However, the size of the vehicle doesn't play a role.

It is mandatory to clean the interior of the trailer at the slaughterhouse, exterior needs to be cleaned only in the event of animal diseases. The driver should enter farms, stables and loading ramps as little as possible. This also applies to unauthorised persons, who should not enter the driver's cab or the loading area of a vehicle in order to prevent germ transmission.

Cleaning the livestock trailer interior: removing loose dirt

Loose dirt such as animal feed, bedding materials, excreta and mud need to be removed manually with water, steam and, if needed, chemicals. This can done by using a shovel, hose, bucket and a broom.

Soaking off dirt

Dirt should be cleaned off with a generous amount of water regardless of the time the animals were in the trailer. A normal hose, or preferably a high-pressure cleaner can be used.

Cleaning livestock trailer interior with cleansing foam

In addition, a suitable cleansing foam can also be used. Foam has better adhesion than plain water, so it’s more efficient at dissolving dirt. The dissolved dirt is afterwards rinsed out. This is preferably done with a device that has a water flow rate of 1,000 litres per hour or more to ensure a sufficient flushing power.

Cleaning the cattle trailer at the slaughterhouse

The slaughterhouse is an especially high-risk environment, as vehicles from different farms transporting different types of livestock can meet. However, it’s not mandatory to clean and disinfect the trailer before leaving the slaughterhouse. If the driver isn’t going to do it, they need to fill out the form FMAW27. In it they’ll indicate where they’ll clean and disinfect their vehicle after leaving the premises. The vehicle must be cleaned within the next 24 hours after leaving the slaughterhouse , or before the next time of use, whichever comes sooner.

Cleaning the cattle trailer inside and outside

Tip 1 – use hot water:

It’s recommended to use a hot water high-pressure cleaner at water temperature between 60 and 80 °C. Warm water dissolves dirt faster and more thoroughly, so better cleaning results can be achieved even without detergents. The vehicles will also take less time to dry and can be faster in use again. A flat spray nozzle is the most suitable accessory for the cleaner.

Tip 2 – wear protective clothing:

Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) will protect the cleaner from germs and possible debris flying in the air. PPE generally includes a protective suit, gloves, boots, safety glasses and hearing protection. The boots must also be cleaned and disinfected before leaving the washing area.

What should the animal transporter cleaning area look like?

Ideally the washing area has separate entrances and exits so that cleaned trailers don’t come into contact with dirty trailers. Alarge, covered area consisting of several washing stations should be provided. The washing stations should be separated from each other to ensure that no contamination occurs. The floor areas must be closed and waterproof. The dirty wash water must be drained off in a way that eliminates the transmission of diseases.

The livestock trailers will dry much faster in a closed washing facility. Using a hot water high-pressure cleaner shortens the drying time even more as hot water dries faster. If large vehicles need to be cleaned often, it could be worthwhile to invest in stationary high-pressure cleaners with efficient high-pressure pumps and a hot-water steam generator.

Cleaning the cattle trailer exterior at a washing facility

Tip – drying before disinfecting:

Once the dirt has been completely removed, the vehicle must be allowed to dry completely. Otherwise, the disinfectant will dissolve in the remaining water and its impact will be less sufficient. Any remaining dirt that contains protein has the same impact. The disinfectant will work on the protein rather than kill viruses or bacteria and other micro-organisms, meaning the effectiveness of the disinfectant is no longer guaranteed. The livestock trailer must therefore be completely dry before disinfection can begin.

Disinfection and hot water

When all required parts of a cattle trailer are cleaned and dried, disinfection can start. The driver must keep a disinfection record for each vehicle specifying the frequency, method of cleansing and disinfection as well as the disinfectant used. All disinfectants used must be Defra approved.

Defra provides a list of approved disinfectants to guide you on which product to use for which disease and in which concentrations. When using chemicals of any kind, it’s worth paying attention to the following aspects::

  • Use the disinfectant as little as possible to ensure that as few chemicals as possible are released into the environment.

  • No residues should be detected in foods or wastewater.

  • Avoid potentially allergenic substances such as aldehydes or cresols and CMR (carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic for reproduction) substances.

  • The first indications of resistance against substances such as formaldehyde and quaternary ammonium compounds have been found.
Documenting animal transporter disinfection

Tip – use foam:

It’s recommended to use a foam to highlight already treated areas as well as to increase the impact. A non-spraying foam can also be applied with a cup foam lance from up to seven metres away, increasing user safety.

Due to many problems associated with the use of chemicals, the findings of current studies regarding the disinfecting effect of hot water high-pressure cleaners are interesting. In the spring of 2021, an independent laboratory proofed the effectiveness of Kärcher devices in combating viruses. Our hot water high-pressure cleaners were able to eliminate enveloped viruses even at 65 °C water and being less than a minute in contact with the contaminated surface. At over 75 °C water even the amount of non-enveloped viruses was clearly reduced.

Advantages of hot water high-pressure cleaners

Cleaning with hot water: High-pressure cleaners clean even better at a constant pressure. Alongside improved results and faster cleaning and drying times, hot water high-pressure cleaners also have a measurable germ-reducing effect. When the steam stage is used, even delicate surfaces can be gently cleaned with temperatures of up to 155 °C. Furthermore, the machines allow for a reduction in the working pressure, the time required and the volume of cleaning agent that is used. This means that cleaning with hot water offers a number of advantages and various possibilities for optimising the cleaning process.

Cleaning animal transporter in aquafarming

The regulations for cleaning animal transporters in aquafarming are similar as in transporting other types of animals. In addition, aquafarming facilities are high-security areas as the risk of transmission of pathogens is a lot higher in fish stocks. In the worst case, the spread of germs can even lead to the closure of the entire facility. Therefore, both interior and exterior of the fish transportation vehicles need to be thoroughly cleaned and adequately disinfected to ensure a good level of cleanliness and hygiene.

Cleaning a fish trailer

Relocating fish and crustaceans from a hatchery to a tank for rearing and feeding them always involves a risk of introducing germs or infections into their new habitat. To keep this risk to a minimum, thorough cleaning and disinfecting transport containers and vehicles is crucial when transporting fish.

Suitable products for your area of application


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