Lightning strike

Veterinary advice should be sought before applying any treatment or vaccine.

Lightning Strike

Cattle are at risk of death by lightning strike while grazing in pastures during a thunderstorm. The degree of risk is dependent on the lightening strike density of the geographical area, topographical landscape of the pasture, distribution of trees within the pasture, fencing material used, and habits of the animal during storms.

In the United States, the highest lightning flash densities are in Florida, the Southeast, Gulf States, the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys, and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and some other mountains in the Desert Southwest.

The most common ways lightning strikes affect cattle are through ground current, side flash, contact strike, and direct strike. Certain trees are also more susceptible to lightning strikes than others. These trees should be identified and either protected or removed from pastures where cattle graze.


Found dead in the pasture after a storm


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam


Supportive care


  • Removal of isolated trees from pastures
  • Protection of isolated trees or shelters with a lightning protection system installed by a professional who knows what they are doing
  • Any electrical fences installed should be grounded and its electrical continuity should be broken by insulation material in brakes in the wires at particular calculated intervals per manufacturers recommendation

Article Reference

Risk Factors

  • Living in areas with a high lighting strike density (ie, Southeastern United States)
  • Lack of shelter in pasture
  • Isolated trees



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