How to Hitch a Livestock Trailer

Illustrations by Kevin Hand

Hauling Herefords isn’t like towing a sailboat. A loaded stock trailer can weigh up to 30,000 pounds, and if you hook something that heavy to a bumper, you’ll drive away 
without your back end. “Gooseneck hitches are common in livestock operations,” says Joe Lewis, who has worked at Rosenberg-based Discount Hitch and Truck 
Accessories since 1996. 
“This design moves the tongue weight, or downward force, 
toward the center of the truck, which makes it capable of 
carrying larger loads.” If physics confound you, rely on 
common sense: Consult your 
vehicle’s owner’s manual to 
determine maximum towing capacity before buying an eight-horse stock trailer.

the TRUCK

Gooseneck hitches are typically installed on three-
quarter-ton trucks. You can install your own hitch (though 
Lewis recommends leaving it to the pros), but check your service 
contract before allowing someone to weld the components 
to your frame. “Most manufacturers recommend bolting the 
hitch in,” Lewis says. “Welding can void the warranty.”

the hitch

The hitch for a gooseneck is installed in the center of the truck 
bed, and like the familiar bumper mount, it uses a ball-and-socket joint. The ball, which fits into a trailer’s coupler, is generally two and 
five-sixteenths inches across. Note that some older trailer couplers have wider holes; be sure your ball and coupler match. Also explore 
your options: Some designs allow the ball to fold down so you have 
unimpeded access to the bed when a trailer isn’t attached.

the hookup

To avoid that dent you see so often on trucks at cattle 
sales, put down the tailgate. “You’d be surprised how many people 
forget that part,” Lewis says. Jack the trailer up high enough 
so that the coupler clears the back of the truck. Throw your vehicle into 
reverse and, with a helper, slowly back up until the coupler is over 
the ball. Put your truck in park and lower the jack until the ball fits securely into the coupler. Lock the ball in, hook up the safety chains, and plug in 
the pigtail, or electrical wiring, so that the lights work on the trailer.

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