Transporting cattle: Stéphane’s Actros 2558 has a clever body
Economics & Logistics
Stéphane Idais buys and sells cattle. He recently bought an Actros 2558 with a trailer for transporting them to complement his small fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
The bull weighing in at 1.2 tonnes dominates the small herd of young cows in the pen. Two men herd them forward into a long passage and up to a ramp. This leads into a cattle truck. The three-axle truck with a three-axle trailer is built on the chassis of an Actros 2558. The trailer can be opened at the front so that the animals can be herded from behind the entire vehicle combination and into the tractor vehicle. This smart solution comes from the French bodybuilder Harmand Carrosserie from Mansle in the Charente Departement.
“The bodies are equipped with hydraulics that allow us to accommodate the animals on two levels,” Stéphane Idais explains. “That way, 36 young cows fit in the semitrailer.” The 48-year-old is a cattle dealer in Venansault, a small town in the Vendée Departement. On some days, as many as 100 cattle can be loaded into vehicles at the eight-hectare site. In 2017 that made for a total of 20,000 animals. “Limousin, Blonde d’Aquitaine, Charolais, Normande, Parthenais and Salers are the main breeds that we have here in the region,” says the entrepreneur.
The farmers’ choice is dependent on the task that the animals are intended to fulfil. The way they are kept also plays a decisive role in that decision. Not all breeds are suitable as grazing animals. Stéphane Idais only trades in cattle. On the whole, the animals come from breeders in the region. Stéphane Idais visits farmers in a 50-kilometre radius and also goes to cattle markets. “Dealing in cattle is a business based on trust,” he says. “We always buy whole herds from the breeders and farmers.”
Stéphane Idais does not carry out the long-distance transport jobs as his cattle trucks are not equipped for this. However, he does drive his truck as far as northern France once a week. “We have numerous customers in the region around Calais and Lille,” the cattle dealer explains – he also has a breeding business spanning 30 hectares which one of his employees looks after.
On Wednesday at about two in the morning, the journey begins and on Thursday night the driver returns with cattle from the north. These usually stay for three days in the cattle dealer’s meadows. During that time, Stéphane Idais completes all of the administrative work involved in the deal, because each animal must be completely traceable back to its origins: “No cow can be without an animal passport and weight card.”
As the son of a farmer, he learned to be a cattle dealer from the bottom up. At the beginning of his career he was employed in a co-operative for several years. At the end of 1999 Stéphane Idais read a newspaper article that said the year 2000 was a year for new projects. That was the trigger he needed to become self-employed: “I closed the newspaper, went to my boss and handed in my resignation,” he says; recalling his start as a business owner.
In addition to a small van, Stéphane Idais now owns three Mercedes-Benz cattle transporters – an Axor 1824, an Actros 3244 with a tridem axle and a brand new three-axle Actros 2558.
In the meantime, the semitrailer has arrived at the meadow. Stéphane Idais lowers the ramp at the rear, puts up the protective side walls and opens the double-wing doors. Led by a young cow, the herd storms out of the cattle truck. Regardless of how comfortable the vehicle might be, the meadow is always what they prefer.
Photos: Olivier BOS