The incidence of rabies in livestock is an important factor for estimating the economic impact of the disease, but obtaining reliable data is hindered by inadequate surveillance. In order to understand the contribution of livestock rabies to the overall burden of disease, the rabies incidence in cattle was investigated in detail for Turkey between 2008 and 2011. Data were compiled on cattle numbers, samples submitted for rabies diagnosis, vaccinated animals and positive rabies cases in animals for seven regions in Turkey. Rabies incidence in cattle fluctuated annually and differed between regions from 0·10 to 3·87 cases/100 000 animals. The positive influence of compensation schemes was observed. Livestock losses were conservatively estimated at around $250 000 international dollars per annum, although in areas where compensation schemes are not operating this could be an underestimate of the economic burden. Vaccination of cattle remains an option for disease prevention, although oral rabies vaccination through aerially distributed baits should be implemented to prevent the further spread of fox-mediated rabies, which could result in much greater economic costs.