The attack occurred last week at a farm on Scott's Ferry Road near Appling, Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker said.
The county's Animal Control office sent the carcass to the state Division of Public Health, where test results completed Monday confirmed rabies.
"This is the first time we've ever heard of a rabid coyote," Mrs. Tucker said, noting that most local rabies cases involve raccoons, which have accounted for four such cases in 2008.
It's also unusual for a coyote to attack cattle. "They don't usually attack something so large," she said.
Rabies in coyotes is very rare. Only 10 such cases were documented in the entire country during 2006, the most recent year for which complete figures are available, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The owner of the cattle, John Knox, was notified by the Georgia Department of Agriculture that all cows that were in the pasture at the time of the attack must be quarantined for observation for six months to be sure none were infected.
"They advised that he has to watch for any suspicious behavior among the cattle," she said.
Mrs. Tucker reiterated that precautions such as keeping small pets indoors at night can help avoid confrontations with coyotes, which are common predators in the area.
"It's really tough for an owner of an animal if it gets attacked," she said. "This is one of the reasons why it is so important to get your animals vaccinated, and keep those vaccinations up to date."
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
VACCINATE YOUR PETS
Columbia County Animal Care & Control will conduct a low-cost rabies vaccination clinic from 1 until 3 p.m. Aug. 2 (or until vaccinations run out). There are 100 available vaccinations.
The vaccination clinic will be at the Harlem Fire Station No. 2, which is located at 180 N. Louisville St. (behind the police station.) The cost is $2 per animal.
FACTS ABOUT RABIES
Rabies can cause death in animals and humans, but vaccination programs have made the disease rare in domesticated animals. More than 90 percent of animal cases reported annually to the CDC occur in wildlife.
U.S. RABIES CASES BY SPECIES, 2006:
Source: US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention