Animal Welfare at Auction Markets [Auction Barns, Livestock Markets]

May 16, 2024

The CVMA recognizes that various transitional animal assembly sites exist however this Position Statement is focused on the welfare of animals at auction markets assembled for the purpose of marketing.


The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) holds that when farmed animals are marketed through auction markets, they are exposed to risks that can negatively impact their welfare. Risks at these sites should be minimized via standardized procedures. The CVMA proposes the development and implementation of national standards for auction markets that would include guidelines promoting best practices to safeguard animal health and welfare.


  • Live animal auction markets are a long-held practice for the marketing of farm animals and for assessing market conditions.
  • Live animal auction markets can expose animals to health, welfare, and biosecurity risks at various stages in the process.
  • Transport and handling related stressors during the marketing process can be significant, are cumulative, and may result in apparently fit animals at the point of loading becoming compromised or unfit.
  • Thorough on-farm fitness assessments and appropriate preconditioning of animals prior to transport to auction and marketing will help to mitigate negative impacts to animal health and welfare.
  • Marketing methods such as direct and electronic marketing that do not require multiple journeys and mixing of animals are strongly encouraged.
  • Veterinarians and industry organizations are encouraged to inform producers utilizing auction markets that timelines from departure to arrival at final destination can be prolonged.
  • Pre-planning and good communication between producers, transporters and receivers as well as in person receipt of animals is strongly encouraged as this allows for responsible transfer of care.
  • Auction market staff must be trained and have the skills to mitigate biosecurity risks, ensure humane handling, provide feed and water that meets each animal’s needs, and to monitor and provide care for every animal from unloading at arrival up to and including reloading at departure.
  • Elective surgeries at auction markets should be prohibited.
  • CVMA encourages national harmonization of provincial legislation as well as the consistent enforcement of federal and provincial regulations related to animal welfare issues identified at auction markets.
  • CVMA supports the development of multistakeholder-informed national standards for auction markets that promote animal health and welfare. This includes the training of owners and staff in optimal infrastructure, biosecurity principles, and humane animal handling, including the recognition and appropriate actions regarding compromised and vulnerable animals including euthanasia when necessary to prevent suffering.


  1. Livestock1 auction markets are designated locations with dedicated facilities that provide an opportunity for buyers and sellers to openly trade farmed animals. A public auction provides an opportunity for the current prices of animals of varying species, breeds, ages, weights, and body conditions to be determined by market circumstances and for members of the livestock industry to meet and share industry information.
  2. Livestock can be purchased at auction markets for breeding, production, immediate slaughter or grouping for further marketing. Animals that are not sold may be held for the next sale, transferred to another market, euthanized on-site, sent to local slaughter or less commonly, returned to the farm of origin. At this time, auction markets remain a transitional step between farm and an animal’s ultimate destination.
  3. When farm animals are traded at auction markets, they are exposed to multiple stressors which are risks to health and welfare (1). Small groups of animals are o􀅌en sorted by age, size, and weight into larger groupings for resale. Some animals may go through the same process at multiple auction markets before reaching their final destination (2). Risks of injury, stress and disease are cumulative and may occur during loading and unloading, transport, handling, and mixing with unfamiliar animals (3).
  4. An animal’s health can decline rapidly during transit, and transport related stressors can result in animals that are apparently fit at loading becoming visibly compromised or unfit in transit. Despite regulatory changes to improve animal welfare during transport and to address public concerns, (4) compromised and unfit animals continue to be identified at these locations (1,5, 6,). Certain categories of animals are more susceptible to decline than others (e.g., neonates and culled animals). Thorough fitness assessment and preparation of animals following veterinary advice prior to loading can maximize animal health and welfare and mitigate losses (7, 8).
  5. Currently there is no regulatory requirement for in-person receipt of animals at auction markets (9). Receipt and transfer of care can legally occur via electronic means. CVMA strongly encourages pre-planning, good communication and in-person receipt of animals as this facilitates optimal transfer of care. Animals must be assessed immediately upon receipt, and care provided (e.g., milking of lactating animal to address or prevent engorgement; appropriate feeding of pre-weaned calves; referral for veterinary care etc.) by a receiver who is trained and skilled in fitness assessment. Animals may, on occasion, require more care than even well-trained staff can provide, therefore an ongoing relationship with a local veterinarian is strongly encouraged for all auction markets.
  6. Auction market activities are a major biosecurity risk (10, 11). There is a risk of transmission of infectious disease which increases at auction markets due to the mixing of animals from numerous sources, compromised immunity due to multiple stressors, and from potential contact with an inadequately cleaned environment.
  7. There are currently no national standards for auction market facilities or for the training of staff in animal handling and in the identification of compromised animals at these sites. They are however, required to meet the standards under the applicable provincial legislation as well as the Health of Animals Act and Regulations to meet obligations regarding preparation, feed and water provision, and fitness assessment of each animal for transport. CVMA holds that national standards for auction markets should be developed by a multistakeholder collaborative process. These national standards should provide guidance on maters such as standardized staff training in all regulatory requirements, fitness assessment, animal care and handling including timely euthanasia (12) as well as facility requirements (13) and recommended practices.
  8. Producers may be unaware of the amount of time their animals spend in transit when utilizing the services of an auction market. Veterinarians and/or industry should make their clients/members aware that the average time in the marketing system is 3.4 to 5.3 days (1) as this may impact loading decisions. Understanding the process and the total time involved allows for informed decision making regarding appropriate on-farm animal selection and animal preparation (e.g., preconditioning, fitness assessment) as well as effective communication between all parties to ensure minimal transport and marketing durations for the animals.
  9. A Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship is strongly advised for all production units. Where one does not exist, the involvement of industry in the dissemination of health and welfare related information is even more critical.
  10. Current practices in some locations may include feed and water provision being contingent on fees being paid by the consignor. In the past, sales weights were based on an empty rumen and were achieved by feed and water restriction, but this is largely being replaced by empirical formulas (14). This practice, where still utilized, combined with the logistical challenges in the provision of feed and water (crowded pens, inadequate plumbing, infrastructure challenges etc.) can lead to the potential for long periods of time without access to either, with resulting welfare impacts (15). The CVMA holds that feed and water provision that meet an animal’s needs must be a standardized and strictly enforced regulatory requirement for auction markets.
  11. The current division of powers between federal and provincial governments may contribute to gaps in inspection and consistent enforcement at places such as auction markets when federal animal transport regulations and provincial on-site regulations intersect (16). CVMA strongly encourages government bodies to work towards harmonizing animal welfare regulations and enforcement nationally to improve animal welfare overall, including at these sites.
  12. As technology becomes available, the CVMA supports the development and adoption of alternative methods of animal data management and of marketing (e.g., direct and electronic marketing) such as are already available and widely used in the swine and poultry sectors. This may obviate the need for multiple journeys and the mixing of large numbers of animals.
  13. CVMA strongly encourages all stakeholders marketing animals through auction markets ensure that elective surgeries (e.g., castration, horn management, etc.) occur at the site of origin, providing sufficient time for the animal to fully heal (17) prior to any transport. Elective surgeries at transitional sites such as auction markets can cause unnecessary stress and health risks (7) and should be prohibited.

    Under the Transport of Animals provisions in the Health of Animals Regulations animals that are incompletely healed following a surgical procedure (18) are considered compromised for the purposes of transport. Such animals require special care (19), provisions and handling for transport and under the regulations can only be transported locally for care or slaughter (9).

    While the performing of elective surgeries on fit animals at auction barns is not expressly prohibited by federal law, the reloading and transporting of these now compromised animals in the legally required manner would be costly, logistically challenging and would pose an additional risk to the compromised animal.
  14. In the absence of harmonized federal and provincial animal welfare legislations, the CVMA calls on the auction market industry in Canada to identify a national lead association willing to work with other stakeholders to create national auction market standards. CVMA supports and offers the assistance of the veterinary profession in the development of multistakeholder-informed national standards for auction markets that promote animal health and welfare.

1 Poultry are not generally classified as livestock and are not routinely marketed though auc􀆟on markets, however for the purposes of this position the term "livestock" will also include any poultry that are marketed through these venues.


  1. Stojkov, J., von Keyserlingk, M. A. G., T. Duffield, and D. Fraser. 2020. Fitness for transport of cull dairy cows at livestock markets. J. Dairy Sci. 103(3): 2650-2661. doi: 10.3168/jds.2019-17454
  2. Stojkov, J., von Keyserlingk, M. A. G., T. Duffield, and D. Fraser. 2020. Management of cull dairy cows: Culling decisions, duration of transport, and effect on cow condition. J. Dairy Sci. 103(3): 2636-2649. doi: 10.3168/jds.2019-17435
  3. Jean Silva Ramos,1 Marianne Villetaz-Robichaud,1 Julie Arsenault,2 Younès Chorfi,3 Marcio Costa,3 Jocelyn Dubuc,1 Salvatore Ferraro,1 David Francoz,1 Marjolaine Rousseau,1 Gilles Fecteau,1 and Sébastien Buczinski: Health indicators in surplus calves at the time of arrival at auction markets: associations with distance from farms of origin in Québec, Canada J. Dairy Sci 2023;106(10):7089-7103.
  4. Livestock Market Association of Canada 
  5. Allison K. G. Moorman,*† Todd F. Duffield,*† M. Ann Godkin,‡ David F. Kelton,*† Jeffrey Rau,*and Derek B. Haley : Associations between the general condition of culled dairy cows and selling price at Ontario auction markets *†1 J. Dairy Sci. 101:10580–10588
  6. Wilson DJ, Stojkov J, Renaud DL, Fraser D. Short communication: Condition of male dairy calves at auction markets. J Dairy Sci. 2020;103:8530-8534. doi:
  7. Anne Allen, Corrie Rot, Heather Brown, Marie-Odile Rozon, and Sarah Johannson Canada’s animal transport regulations and the veterinarian’s role: Can Vet J. 2022 Aug; 63(8): 866–868
  8. Joanne Marshall 1, Derek Haley 1 2 3, Lena Levison 2, David F. Kelton 1 3 4, Cynthia Miltenburg 1 4, Steven Roche 1 5, Todd F. Duffield 1 3 A survey of practices and atitudes around cull cow management by bovine veterinarians in Ontario, Canada Journal of Dairy Science Volume 106, Issue 1, January 2023, Pages 302-311
  9. Government of Canada. Health of Animals Regulations (2020). Available from:,_c._296/index.html
  10. Connor JTO, Clegg TA, More SJ. Efficacy of washing and disinfection in catle markets in Ireland. Ir Vet J. 2017;70:6. doi:10.1186/s13620-017-0081-1
  11. Dubé C, Ribble C, Kelton D. An analysis of the movement of dairy catle through 2 large livestock markets in the province of Ontario, Canada. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2010;51:1254-1260.
  12. CVMA position statement on Euthanasia
  13. Weeks CA, McNally PW, Warriss PD. Influence of the design of facilities at auction markets and animal handling procedures on bruising in catle. Vet Rec. 2002;150:743-748.
  14. Alberta Farmer Express: The lowdown on how buyers calculate shrink March 20, 2017
  15. Vogel KD, Claus JR, Grandin T, Oetzel GR, Schaefer DM. Effect of water and feed withdrawal and health status on blood and serum components, body weight loss, and meat and carcass characteristics of Holstein slaughter cows. J Anim Sci. 2011;89:538-548. doi:10.2527/jas.2009-2675.
  16. David Fraser, Katherine E. Koralesky, and Geoff Urton Toward a harmonized approach to animal welfare law in Canada: Can Vet J. 2018 Mar; 59(3): 293–302
  17. Merck Manual: Major stages of wound healing 
  18. CVMA Position Statement on Surgical Procedures Performed on Animals: 
  19. Stafford, K.J., Mellor, D.J., and Vogel, K. 2021 Painful husbandry procedures in livestock and poultry. pp.113-144. In Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach, 3rd ed. Ed. Grandin, T. CABI, Wallingford, UK.

Additional resources:

Compromised or unfit animals at assembly centres: Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) 

Canadian Livestock Transport – Livestock handling

Make Sure Your Calf is Fit for Transport checklist: CFIA

Check animals before transport: CFIA

Assessing lameness for transport CFIA

Meléndez DM, Marti S, Haley DB, Schwinghamer TD, Yang X, Schwartzkopf-Genswein KS Effect of rest, post-rest transport duration, and conditioning on performance, behavioural, and physiological welfare indicators of beef calves.PLoS One. 2022 Dec 1;17(12):e0278768. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0278768. eCollection 2022.PMID: 36454988
Free PMC article.

Meléndez DM, Marti S, Haley DB, Schwinghamer TD, Schwartzkopf-Genswein KS.
Effect of transport and rest stop duration on the welfare of conditioned catle transported by road.
PLoS One. 2020 Mar 2;15(3):e0228492. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228492. eCollection 2020.
PMID: 32120382
Free PMC article.

Meléndez DM, Marti S, Haley DB, Schwinghamer TD, Schwartzkopf-Genswein KS. Effects of conditioning, source, and rest on indicators of stress in beef catle transported by road. PLoS One. 2021 Jan 12;16(1):e0244854. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0244854. eCollection 2021.
PMID: 33434915
Free PMC article.

Uddin MS, Schwartzkopf-Genswein KS, Waldner M, Meléndez DM, Niu YD, Alexander TW. Auction market placement and a rest stop during transportation affect the respiratory bacterial microbiota of beef catle. Front Microbiol. 2023 Sep 22;14:1192763. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2023.1192763. eCollection 2023.PMID: 37808284
Free PMC article.

Marti S, Wilde RE, Moya D, Heuston CE, Brown F, Schwartzkopf-Genswein KS. Effect of rest stop duration during long-distance transport on welfare indicators in recently weaned beef calves.
J Anim Sci. 2017 Feb;95(2):636-644. doi: 10.2527/jas.2016.0739.
PMID: 28380612 Clinical Trial.