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Livestock Safety

Farm animals are responsible for many disabling injuries. Although animal-related injuries are generally less severe than injuries caused by farm machinery, such accidents cost time, money, and productivity.

The following guidelines offer general safety instructions for working with any animals:

  • Take good care of animals and treat them kindly.
  • Use adequate restraining and handling facilities when working with animals.
  • Always leave yourself an escape route when working with animals (i.e., do not work in small, confined areas or back yourself into a corner).
  • Do not put your hands, legs, or feet in gate or chute closures where you may become pinned or crushed by a large animal.
  • Reduce the chance for slips and falls by keeping handling areas free from debris. Attach "no slip" safety strips to slick areas.
  • Stay away from frightened, sick, or hurt animals whenever possible. Take care around animals with young offspring.
  • Wear protective clothing around animals, as appropriate.
  • Do not handle livestock when you are alone.
  • Keep children away from unfamiliar or unfriendly animals.
  • Treat manure pits as confined space. Exercise caution as appropriate. Refer to the Manure Pits section in this chapter for more information.

The following sections provide specific instructions for working with certain animals.

Beef Cattle

Ordinary beef cattle generally have a calm disposition; however, they are easily spooked. Because cattle can see almost 360 degrees without moving their heads, a quick movement from behind can scare them just as easily as a sudden movement from the front. Loud, sudden noises, and small dogs tend to upset cattle.

Although cattle are not likely to attack humans, their size and weight can make them dangerous. Always leave yourself an escape route when working with cattle. Keep small children and strangers away from cattle.

Remember, cattle tend to kick forward and then backward with their back legs. If you working near the udder or flank area of a cow, consider pulling the back leg forward to prevent a kick.

Dairy Cattle

Dairy cattle tend to be more nervous than other domestic animals. Always announce your presence to a cow by speaking calmly or touching the animal gently. When moving cows into a constraining place, such as a milk parlor, always give them time to adjust before beginning work. If a dairy cow tends to kick, consider using a hobble.


Hogs can be dangerous because they can bite with enough force to cause serious injury. Likewise, a hog's size and weight can easily harm a person if the animal steps on, lays on, or charges a person. Guiding hogs for sorting or movement to a new pen requires lots of patience and adequate facilities. An easy way to guide a hog backwards is to place a box or basket over the hog's head. The hog will then back away to avoid the box. As with cattle, you should announce your presence to a hog by speaking calmly.


Take care not to spook horses with loud noise. If you intend to work with a horse, you should know how to ride properly, saddle, and handle a horse. Ride with extra care around trees, water, or rough terrain.


Take care when working around sheep to avoid being butted by a ram. To safely immobilize a sheep for handling, place the animal on his rump and tilt him far enough back to keep the rear hooves off the ground.


Chickens are fairly harmless, although geese, gobblers, and roosters can harm children and the elderly. Most hazards associated with poultry concern improper equipment usage, dust, and slippery surfaces within poultry facilities.

May 2011
Reviewed November 2014