Eddie Baggs: Fence In – Fence Out

The old saying, “the grass looks greener on the other side” really comes to bear when going through a historic drought.  Once lush green pastures have become brown, bare fields of dust, sending livestock in search of anything green. 

The search usually starts with the neighbors’ fields and then continues beyond.  As livestock put their heads through strands of barb wire trying to graze on the other side, it stretches and pulls on the post that supports the fence.  Combined with the dry soil conditions, the entire section of fence may start to lie down towards the outside.  Before long, the fence is completely down and the animals are astray.

This is when established laws and fencing regulations protect the public rights and property.  Good fencing can save the relationship with the neighbors and prevent a call from the County Animal Control Department. 

Under the Texas Agriculture Code, Title 6, Chapter 143 referring to the ‘fence in law’ states that “a person is not required to fence against animals that are not permitted to run at large”.  This means that the animal owner is required to build and maintain a fence sufficient to keep animals in and is not the responsibility of the public or non-animal owners to build a fence to keep animals out.

To take it even further, a sufficient fence is also defined in the code, section 143.028 and says, “In order to be sufficient, a fence must be at least four feet high and comply with the following requirements”:

(1) a barbed wire fence must consist of three wires on posts no more than 30 feet apart, with one or more stays between every two posts;
(2) a picket fence must consist of pickets that are not more than six inches apart;
(3) a board fence must consist of three boards not less than five inches wide and one inch thick; and
(4) a rail fence must consist of four rails

Now, we all know that three strands of wire is not going to be a sufficient fence in today’s conditions.  Animal owners should use some common sense and local knowledge to keep animals in.  The livestock owner could be held liable if it is proven that the animal escaped because of their negligence.   

To be safe, legal, and keep positive relations with neighbors, the animal owner should practice good herdmanship by checking animals, fence conditions, and making needed repairs in a timely manner.

Eddie Baggs, Denton County Extension Agent-Agriculture
Texas AgriLife Extension – Denton County
(940) 349-2880 or Metro (972) 434-8812

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