Stock getting out – some of the legal issues

As New Zealand goes into more legislation for everything, legal issues around stock getting out, roaming on the road, causing accidents and damage to peoples' property, will come under close scrutiny.

A colleague of mine, sadly passed away, but he was an expert witness in these cases, and he was highly sought after to give his professional opinion on just these issues.

There are clear definitions of fencing from a legal point of view, and it is obvious that cattle grazing behind a single wire must be managed, and must be back behind adequate boundary fence by dark.

Broken down fences and hedges where stock have walked through at will, is no longer excusable. If the stock get out and somebody gets killed, you could be held liable because you are negligent. Expert witnesses would look at your road fences and, if it was not up to standard, could testify against you.

Hitting a wandering animal, particularly a black cow or a horse can have disastrous consequences. As my dad says "its one of the worst things you can hit on the road". Moreover, at the speeds that we travel in these light cars today, there is a huge amount of damage, and you could be killed.

So what can you do to protect your property and the public?
  • Only put quiet stock used to single hot wire on the roadside by day, and remove them before night.
  • Don't leave the property while they are grazing on the roadside.
  • Ensure there is more than adequate electric current going through the wire. I would say a minimum of 5,000 volts.
  • Bulls or stock that are likely to fight should not be on the roadside.
  • Boundary fences must be up to scratch. As described, a tatty, holey old barberry hedge is barely stockproof, and not suitable for a boundary fence.
  • You can cut the inside of the hedge back hard and put a fence up on the inside of the boundary if you wish to retain the hedge.
  • If you run sheep, you must ensure that the fence is sheep proof as well.
On our farms we always had the gate that gave access down the race to the paddocks and the livestock, shut at the end of the day. It never ceased to amaze me how stock can just walk up the race, down the lane and out onto the road, and nobody notices. While I lived in Tauwhare, I often saw whole herds of cows walk off a property, and off down the road.

Perhaps the fact that the gate down the main race must be shut at night could go into the job description for employees.

Sometimes stock will escape out of cattle yards when being loaded for transport, drenched, or under pressure. Therefore, your yards and load out facilities must also be kept up to standard.

The latest government initiative, requiring boundary fences on deer farms to be up to a better standard is meeting with some resistance. It would appear the reason for this initiative is because deer have been escaping back to the wild, escalating the numbers there.

In summary, as a lifestyle block owner you must be very careful, and ensure that stock do not escape onto the road, and cause an accident. You must ensure that you have insurance to cover that eventuality, unlikely as it may seem.

You need to be aware that the penalties are high, and you need to think about what might happen if somebody was killed as a result of your negligence.

Think about it, and have some set proper systems in place to keep your animals on your land, and keep things safe.


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