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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

Livestock Handling Safety

There are many activities within OSU CFAES that involve working with livestock. No matter if you are moving animals to different pastures, providing veterinary care, or conducting research, safety should be a priority when handling livestock. Animal behavior can be unpredictable at times and livestock can revert to instinctual reactions when they feel threatened or stressed. Individuals can be injured due to preoccupation, haste, impatience, or even anger. Injuries that are common when working with livestock include bites, kicks, being stepped on, pinned against a solid surface, or overcome by a single animal or the whole herd.

Many individuals have never stopped to consider why animals behave as they do and, more importantly, what this behavior may mean to their personal safety. Although most animal incidents are not fatal, individuals are needlessly injured each year because of a lack of safety awareness. That is why it is very important to conduct safe animal handling and restraint practices.

Plan ahead and consider your safety and the animal’s safety when handling livestock. Some general safety guidelines should include:

- Understand and study the typical behaviors of the specific livestock you are working with.

- Understand aggressive warning signs such as showing of teeth, ears laid back, raised hair, snorting, or stomping of feet.

- Avoid startling an animal by making it aware of your approach before getting too close. Approach from an angle that you can be seen.

- Move calmly, deliberately, and patiently. Avoid quick movements or loud noises that may startle animals.

- Avoid being in travel paths during the feeding of a herd or large group of livestock.

- Be aware of your surroundings and always leave an escape route when working in close quarters with livestock.

- Use the proper personal protective equipment to prevent injuries and exposure to potential zoonotic illnesses.

- Utilize good housekeeping practices in barns and livestock facilities to prevent slips, trips, or falls.

OSU Dept. of Animal Science: Student Safety Guidelines for Handling Animals
OSU Dept. of Animal Science: Employee Health and Safety Information Checklist
CFAES Needle Safety Policy
CFAES Compliance Checklist
OSU Fact Sheet: Working Safely with Livestock
OSU 4H Lesson 6: Moving Livestock Safely
Auburn University Livestock Safety Page
UMASH Livestock Facilities and Handling Safety
I-CASH Livestock Handling Safety - Livestock Trailer Safety - Livestock Safety Videos
ASCHA Livestock Safety Videos

Training Resources

Employee safety training is an essential part of the CFAES Safety Program for protecting workers from injuries and illnesses. The training resources below can be utilized to provide livestock specific training to those employees handling livestock.

Right from the Start: Safety Awareness for the Next Generation of Livestock Producers
The following materials were produced by the Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention, and Education ( with funding support provided by NIOSH / CDC Cooperative Agreement #U54OH07541 and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. 

Safety Basics

Beef Cattle

Dairy Cattle






Comprehensive Exam



If you have any questions, please contact Kent McGuire (CFAES Safety and Health Coordinator) at or (614) 292-0588. You may also contact the OSU Environmental Health and Safety Office online at or by phone at (614) 292-1284.


Reviewed / Updated: 11/17/20 K. McGuire