How to Hitch a Livestock Trailer
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.
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 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.
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.