Handling Livestock Safely

Working with farm animals can be dangerous, according to the U.S Census for Fatal Occupational Injuries. A recent summary of farm accidents data from 15 states shows that animals were a factor in about one of every eight injuries reported, ranking second to farm machinery in total number of cases. Many animal related injuries are serious and involve considerable loss of time, money, and productivity. Cattle are the most dangerous of farm animals. The National Safety Council ranked beef cattle farms second and dairy operations third among all farming enterprises in injuries per hour of work.


Common things that cattle do that hurt people are kicking or stepping on them, and catching people or their limbs between the animal and a hard surface. Although cattle generally do not attack people, they can overwhelm you with their size and weight. Always leave yourself a way to get out when working with large animals in a small area. Beware of the area in front of the rear leg. Cattle tend to kick forward then back. Bulls should have special facilities where they are fed, watered, exercised and used for breeding, so that the farmer has little direct contact with them. As with other animals, cows can become dangerous when defending calves.

Milk Cows

Milk cows are generally more nervous than other animals, and they are easily startled, especially by strange noises and persons. Always announce your presence when approaching a cow. Gently touch the animal rather than bumping or shoving it. When moving cows into a constrained space such as a milking parlor stall, give them time to adjust before starting to work.


Hogs can bite with enough force to cause serious injury, and they pack enough weight to bowl people over or cause injury by stepping or laying on them. A sow can become aggressively protective if any of her offspring are hurt or threatened. Veterinary work and treatment of pigs should be done only when they are separated from the sow. When working with hogs, make yourself known quietly and gently to avoid startling them. Don’t let small children reach through pens or fences to pet or feed hogs, or let them climb into pens or roam around hog lots.


Horses are useful partners in many range and ranching operations. Unfortunately, many people are injured, even killed, while riding or tending horses. Here are some basic reminders for horse handling:

  1. Have good equipment and maintain it.
  2. Take good care of your horses and respect them.
  3. Make sure a youngster can ride and handle a horse before turning him or her loose on it.
  4. Only a skilled rider should mount a temperamental or high-spirited horse.
  5. Ride with extra care when the going is rough or slippery and among trees with low branches.

Tips for Safe Livestock Handling

The following safety measures will prevent many livestock related farm injuries:

  1. Use adequate restraining and handling facilities.
  2. Be calm and deliberate. Speak gently and do not startle animals.
  3. Leave yourself an “out” when working in close quarters with animals.
  4. Stay clear of animals that are frightened, hurt, sick, or look suspicious.
  5. Be alert for sudden movements, kicking, etc.
  6. Keep floors and ramps of handling operations clean and dry.
  7. Entrust livestock handling jobs only to persons with adequate strength and experience.
  8. Never tie a lead line to your body. You could become entangled.
  9. Restrain known kickers and biters.
  10. Provide separate facilities for a dairy bull.
  11. Eliminate sharp edges and projections around livestock equipment and gates.
  12. Remember: all animals need to be treated with respect. They can all be unpredictable.

Farm Bureau Insurance offers liability policies that protect you and your business from liability claims. If you own a farm and would like to shield yourself potential claims, contact an Farm Bureau Insurance agent.