Winter is a good time to stop and reflect on the past year. It is also a good time to start planning for the next year and working on projects that will potentially make things more convenient or safer. One thing many of us have to do every year is to plan how best to get our livestock to pasture. Whether you have to travel one mile or 50, it’s extremely important to get the animals to pasture and back safely. Before giving up on an old trailer and putting a lot of money into a new trailer, you might consider what you could do to fix up that old trailer and keep it functional.
My husband Gregory and I are just getting started in the beef business. We are working at things slowly and trying to be smart about purchases. A year ago we purchased an old stock trailer to do the dirty work of getting the cattle to pasture 20 miles away, in place of Gregory’s two-horse trailer. We knew we couldn’t afford a new trailer, so when we saw the ad for a cheaper used trailer we jumped on it.
It’s important to remember that the trailer doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to haul the cattle safely. Some common points of failure in older used trailers are rotten floorboards and rusted sidewalls These are some of the things that we encountered with our used stock trailer.
On first glance, we made a poor purchase. It had a lot of rust and several holes on the sides at the bottom. You could see the ground beside you and under you from inside the trailer. We pulled the rubber belting out and found several soft, rotten boards.
Instead of being upset about all the problems, Gregory and his dad John looked at the positive things. The frame was solid. There was some surface rust, but the metal frame was just as solid as the day it was built. While there were some bad boards in the floor, most were still good. With that knowledge, they went to work on the rest.
They cut out the rotten floorboards and replaced them. They also welded pieces of sheet metal, one foot by 10 feet, onto the sidewall on the inside of the trailer at the floor where the rust was so bad that there were actually holes in the wall. Both of these issues needed to be fixed so the cattle didn’t put a foot through the wall or the floor.
Next, they re-welded some of the wall braces and gussets in order to help maintain the integrity and strength. They also worked on the trailer gate. The hinge was weak and in danger of breaking off. They welded reinforcement to the hinge so the gate wouldn’t fall off and the animals wouldn’t fall out of the trailer.
After making the trailer safe for the animals on the inside, they worked on the outside. They had to straighten and patch the fenders to keep them from potentially cutting the tires. They also welded a couple of gussets on the hitch to reinforce it and keep the trailer on the truck. They did some welding on the bumper as well to reattach it and keep the animals from catching their feet as they entered or exited the trailer.
Last, but just as important, they did basic trailer maintenance. They packed and replaced wheel bearings and seals. They also replaced the cracked and worn tires with lightly used truck tires.
This work has transformed the rusted deathtrap of a trailer into a safe, reliable, and functional form of stock transportation that worked very well during the 2019 grazing season.
There are many people who are not in a good position to go out and buy a brand-new trailer. There are definitely things that can be done to make an older used trailer safe and functional. Looks are good in a parade, but at the end of the day all that matters is transporting your livestock safely.