During 2003-2007, human deaths that  involved cattle as a primary or secondary cause totaled 108, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s July 31, 2009 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Because of the sheer number of cattle represented by them, investigators reviewed such deaths in the states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska during 2003-2008 that were detected by the Iowa Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (IA FACE) and the Great PlainsCenter for Agricultural Health (GPCAH). During that time, 21 cattle-related deaths occurred in those states.

Decedents tended to be older (aged ≥60 years) (67%) and male (95%). Except in one case, the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head or chest. Circumstances associated with these deaths included working with cattle in enclosed areas (33%), moving or herding cattle (24%), loading (14%), and feeding (14%). One third of the deaths were caused by animals that had previously exhibited aggressive behavior.

The 21 decedents ranged in age from 8 to 86 years. One of the victims was a boy aged 8 years who was helping castrate cattle when he was crushed against a squeeze chute. One third of the deaths occurred in March and April.

Ten of the 21 fatalities involved attacks by individual bulls, six involved attacks by individual cows, and five involved multiple cattle. In seven attacks the bull or cow was known to have exhibited aggressive behavior in the past. In 16 of the cases, the animal was deemed to have purposefully struck the victim; five other deaths were caused by being crushed against a stationary object or struck by a gate (secondary to the action of cattle). One death resulted from inadvertent injection of the antibiotic tilmicosin phosphate from a syringe in the victim's pocket when he was knocked down by a cow.

The full report including individual case reports, vis available online. Information on safe cattle handling and safe cattle-handling facilities is available from the National Agricultural Safety Database.

The January 2009 issue of Bovine Veterinarian featured an article on safety when working with and around livestock, including livestock equipment and chutes. The article includes safety resources for working around cattle, including the following suggestions:

  • Cattle handling facilities should be equipped with properly constructed animal loading structures to minimize hazards associated with animal transport.
  • Workers should avoid positioning themselves in areas of entrapment when working around large animals.
  • Cattle should be monitored for signs of unusual aggression. Dangerous animals should be promptly removed from farms to prevent worker injury.
  • Work areas should be designed or modified to eliminate potentially hazardous protrusions.