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Mountain Homestead ~ Fencing Range Cattle OUT

 
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My spouse and I live on an old family homestead (been in the family for almost 100 years). Elevation 8400', mountain country (rocky tundra), completely surrounded by US Forest Service lands. We love it here!

Except for the little "cow problem"...

The Forest Service allows a cattle leasee to run 350 cow/calf pairs on the land surrounding our 160 acres. And Colorado is a "Fence Out" state, meaning *we* and we alone are responsible to fence out the bovine hord. The fence line was done many years ago in 4 strand barbed wire, a lay-down type, metal T-posts holding it up, aspen stays creating the fence. The beauty of this is that it can be let down onto the ground before the heavy snow flies. The difficulty of this is that it was not let down for many years when no one lived here and the weight of snowpack (often 6' deep in the depth of winter) pushed the wires and T-posts into the ground in many places. So "restoring" this fence is laborious. The alternative is to let the T-posts, which are pushed into the ground to 6" high in many places, stay in the ground and do some other type of fencing over the top of it. Instead, we've been jacking the posts out by hand gradually and setting up the old fence. Then letting it down in the fall. This is a couple miles of fence, mind you, and much of it in heavy forest or on rocky hillsides. We are years along into this project and it has been a bear.

They, the range cows, prefer our meadow valley with two natural springs to the rugged hills around us, so they come in all the time to graze because our fence is still down in many places we haven't gotten to. We ride them out on horseback and with dogs. But it is a "several times a day" summer project from July (when they are allowed to be put on the allotments around us) till Oct when they are hauled off. I am unable to work offsite in the summertime. We are unable to take vacations away because the cows would come in en masse in our absence and the destruction is profound...hundreds of head on our mountain tundra is devastating...we are trying to undo the damage they've done over decades when no one lived here or monitored the situation.

The cattle leasee is not a very nice guy, not attentive to his cows while they are here. Sometimes they die and we report this but he does nothing to remove the dead bodies. Sometimes we see ill cows or injured ones and report it, but they are not tended to. We don't keep cows here, partly because we could not keep them away from the trespassing herd. We do keep horses and sheep and have had serious illnesses come in that are likely traceable to the range cows. He has been frustrated in the past when we push his cows out, to the point of physcially threatening my husband and (12 yo at the time) son, of filing a lawsuit about the problem of us evicting his herd and causing him trouble in having to move them back around to their appropriate allotments...which lawsuit we won. But still the trespassing goes on due to the Colorado Fence Out law.

We hoped, since the land has been in family hands for so long, we might ourselves be able to take over the lease/allotments and either graze our own cows or sheep or let the lease "drop" and be free of cattle here on this fragile land which they are destructive too in such large numbers. But we have not been able to "nose in" to get the lease, it seems quite impossible to claim that it would be more appropriately ours.

I'm just reaching out for ideas re: legalities from those knowledgeable in this area of law. And re: fencing...I think there must be a better "mousetrap" but my husband feels the old way of lay-down fence is the only thing that will work.

Hoping to resolve this huge problem before the next generation becomes discouraged over it and sells the place to be free of it.





 
gardener
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Maria, I hear your frustration. The cattle owner has no motivation to take responsibility for keeping his cattle off your land not only because the law's on his side, but also because it sounds as if access to your land is to his benefit. I don't have a clear picture of how much of your land is the "meadow valley with two natural springs"? Is it possible to fence their access route into the valley, or would they be determined enough to go around? Do you have trees that you'd want to thin that could be laid on the ground in such a way as the cattle wouldn't want to cross sort of the metal grates some farmers use to keep animals in without a gate?

Hopefully someone with more knowledge of cattle will speak up. I'm only familiar with what my neighbors did, and they only had 2 to deal with!
 
pollinator
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Sounds like he comes from the same cattle herders that wiped out crops in the early days of the west.
A couple of questions?
- Is money a real issue?
- Are you able to finance a 2 mile fence to keep him out?
 
Maria Brown
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We would have to borrow on the land to be able to hire the fencing done. Which we are unwilling/unable to do. The Forest Service required him to fence all the allotments (which cost him over $100,000 to hire done), but there was no requirement of him to concern himself with fencing our land in the middle.

The land is about 50% meadow and the rest aspen/conifer forest It is entirely surrounded by the 5 allotments he has, we are in the center of the wheel. There are 3 gates we can push the cows out, the rest is forested and impassable.
 
pollinator
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Clearly, this situation is untenable (and highly unpleasant).

I am surprised that metal T-posts and wire have been enough to keep cattle out in the past. They have the strength and tenacity (and thick hide) to test and challenge fences when tasty grass is on the other side. You can't do it all by hand -- I think it's time to mechanize and speed up the process of post pulling. Something like a tripod and electric winch would really help. Access to a tractor or bobcat with loader would be even better.

Also, what is your electricity situation? A two-strand electric fence and a hot energizer is not a big expense and goes up very quickly. Poly/metal wire is easy to string out and easy to work with. If you can pop out just enough T-posts (or use trees) to string this around your property, you buy time and train the cattle while you revive the barbed wire. Make sure you have a deep ground rod to get full impact.
 
John C Daley
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From
Livestock in the Mountains
Livestock invading your fenced property is not a criminal offense, but civil recourse is available to the landowner with a “lawful” fence.
A “lawful” fence is defined as a “well constructed three barbed wire fence with substantial posts set at a distance of approximately 20 feet apart, and sufficient to turn ordinary horses and cattle,
with all gates equally as good as the fence, or any other fence of like efficiency.”
According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado’s “fence law” will not prohibit any legal
action for any escaped livestock involved in an accident on the public highways.

If you do have a “lawful fence”, but another’s livestock are on your property, the burden of proof falls upon you, the property owner, to prove that the livestock broke through a “lawful fence”
and did not simply walk through an open gate, unfenced portion or a broken fence. It is legal to take possession of livestock that have trespassed on your property, but if you do keep that
livestock, you also become legally responsible to feed and care for the livestock. (CRS 35-46-102) You must also notify your local brand inspector and the sheriff’s office when livestock is
held for trespass damage.

file:///Users/home/Downloads/A_Landowners_Guide_to_Fences_and_Wildlife.pdf
It seems you will need to inspect your fences especially after winter and prior to winter.
Another problem that can crop up during a cold snap is an issue with line tension.

One of the reasons you don’t apply too much tension to a fence during installation is because of the effect that cold weather has on electric fencing.
As the temperatures plummet, the metal in your fence will contract, which adds tension between the posts. If your fence tension was initially set too tight, then it could damage your fence posts,
pop connectors or insulators and even cause the line to snap.

During installation, tighten fence lines but leave a bit of slack. This slack will draw the fence tight during colder weather.

So you could set up specific locations where you can let the tension off prior to winter and renew it after winter.

It may pay to have a vehicle or trailer set up for fencing so everything you need is on hand always.


Did you say you fence posts are sinking into the ground??
Cam you attach a cross abr at ground level to prevent that?
 
pollinator
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A few suggestions -
if you're a member of Facebook there is a group called agricultural electric fence questions and answers. Electric fence will be much quicker and much less expensive than building a new fence of barbed wire. You will need to train the cattle to the fence. On this Facebook group you can ask how to train cattle that aren't yours.
I'm on my phone so I can't tell if you asked this question in the permied livestock cattle forum but if you didn't that would also be a good place to post this question.
As far as building 2 miles of barbed wire fence is concerned, my mentor has told me never to build fence, only to repair. I also ive in a brittle environment where cattle are not that profitable.
Besides or instead of reporting injured dead and trespassing cattle to the cattle owner it might be better if you report it to the sheriff, or the forest service. This hopefully gives you a record of trespassing by his cattle in the event you want to pursue legal action in the future or see if the forest service will give you the lease and take it away from him.
 
gardener
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The problem is the solution: ribeyes and burgers!  If he's that negligent with his animals, do you think he'd miss one or two steers?
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Marco Banks wrote:The problem is the solution: ribeyes and burgers!  If he's that negligent with his animals, do you think he'd miss one or two steers?


Haha! Tempting. But the high road is the right road.
 
gardener
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Long term you might do well to plant Osage Orange.
It grows pretty slowly so you'll want something quicker.
Black berry thickets,  sea buckthorne, aspen, trifolaiate orange, black locust,  honey locust are all options.
Even if you have to set the fence back from the property line,  using existing trees will speed up the work, and be relatively weather proof.
Fill in the space to the property line with the plant barriers and deterrents.

A dead hedge might work in places.
A ditch  or berm might work,  and be weather resistant, but seems labor intensive.


Scent barriers might work.
The bone sauce used on tender plantings to stop deer and such might work in this way,  I'm not sure.
Predator scents like urines or musks  might work.
It has been noted that cattle avoid pasture where carcasses are discarded.
Spraying the animals themselves might be a no harm deterrent.
Strait ammonia is said to work against deer.


A temporary single wire electric fencing might deter them, but I don't know if it's worth the labor.

A fluttering, spinning visual might spook them away.



You are already doing a lot of work to keep them out.
Is there an animal you could keep that would scare them off?
Bees are used this way to repel elephants.
Llama guard against predators,  but what about other herbivores?
Chickens do not like new chickens,  but how do large herbivores react to outsiders?
 
Jay Angler
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@ Maria Brown: I'm having trouble picturing the fence you're describing. Is it possible to take a photo or two and post them?

Am I correct in understanding that you can collect them up and scare them out of the gates, but they are infiltrating through rough forested areas where the fence is broken?

Due to the "training" issue of electric fence, I can't see it helping you because you could only "train" them by setting up a sturdy paddock on your own land which you drive the invaders into and train them there for a couple of days before releasing them out the gate. You won't know which ones you've trained or not, and the untrained ones will quite likely break the fence in the meantime. Also, from our experience with electric fence, it needs to be checked regularly because vegetation will grow up and ground it out.

Clearly though, the job seems too large for manpower. Would it be possible to invite extended family and friends for a "camp-out" work party? You'd have to feed everyone, but people are looking for cheap vacations these days and it sounds like a beautiful area.
 
Posts: 110
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How many acres do you have? You said 2 miles of fence..am I guessing right based on math that you have less than 20 acres of perimeter fence to repair?
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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With all respect, I have worked cattle, and don't believe it is an epic task to train cattle to a properly energized electric fence. It is much easier if they are already "fence conscious" by which I mean they have learned to respect barbed wire.

A classic gambit: pick a low spot that is always wet, so their hooves create a perfect earth ground. Throw a bale of really nice hay on the other side. The lesson is taught in seconds, not days.

And even if some break through one time, or three, the fences are easy to patch up. Add physical barriers (downed tree) or visual barriers in trouble spots (flagging tape that flaps in the breeze; colour is irrelevant). I think you will win the battle.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Janet Reed wrote:How many acres do you have? You said 2 miles of fence..am I guessing right based on math that you have less than 20 acres of perimeter fence to repair?


I think the OP said 160 acres. Assuming the same survey system is used in the US, that is 1/4 section of land, which means one mile of fenceline (in difficult terrain, which means a lot). A full section is one square mile.
 
Janet Reed
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Janet Reed wrote:How many acres do you have? You said 2 miles of fence..am I guessing right based on math that you have less than 20 acres of perimeter fence to repair?



Sorry...I just noticed 160 acres.  

I think I come from a different set of experiences.

We own 150 acres.  We had cows.  We just got in and fenced 150acres. Then repaired it every spring.  4 strand barb wire on t posts.  We used 4 wheelers and walked on foot til we “ got rich” and could afford a tractor to pull the wire.  It is a ton of work to pull posts, pull wire, stretch wire. But we did it. It was our legal responsibility to keep our cows in.

And we have lots of lease cow land/range area in the County I live in.  It is the land owners legal responsibility to fence the Lease cattle out in those areas; as you have to do.

If you are looking for advice “ training” someone else’s cows is not a great idea.  Containing someone else’s livestock can be illegal in most states. Whether Mr Cow cares well for his livestock or not, whether he is a nice guy or not, it is your responsibility by law to keep his cattle out.  I personally would not waste my time trying to figure a way out. I’d build fence every day til I had a legal fence.



 
denise ra
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Marco Banks, Cattle rustling is a crime.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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denise ra wrote:Marco Banks, Cattle rustling is a crime.


I am sure Marco meant it in jest. Black humour is a pressure-relief valve.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Janet Reed wrote:It is a ton of work to pull posts, pull wire, stretch wire. But we did it.


Me too. I grew up with it. Endless miles of barbed wire fence, and endless mosquitoe hordes. I remember it well, and learned a lot (not least of which is perseverence). But am not nostalgic.
 
denise ra
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   denise ra wrote:
   Marco Banks, Cattle rustling is a crime.

Douglas Alpenstoock wrote
I am sure Marco meant it in jest. Black humour is a pressure-relief valve.

Yup, probably. ;0)
 
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you could plant some crops that are poisonous to cows or stockpile somthing like urea when his cows start droping dead of somthing you are legaly entitled to have on your property it might give the guy a reason to care about them trespasing
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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I'm not sure that's a wise strategy, Brian. It seems to me that would escalate tensions, which are already high.
 
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I feel your pain, knowing little to nothing about cattle control all I can offer is some moral support and want to wish for you and your family the best.
 
Posts: 100
Location: California Zone 10b / Wyoming Zone 3b
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I’m surprised Colorado only requires 3 wires for a legal fence, Wyoming is 4 (and my neighbor and I use 5).

I would check with the forest service to see if there are any programs to help you build a fence.  My property is adjacent to BLM and they provide the grazing rights holder with all the fencing materials to maintain the fence on the border (wildlife friendly).  He just provides the labor and equipment (though now that I am the owner I would help).

If that is not an option, check with the local conservation rep as there might be some federal or state programs, particularly if you are willing to go the wildlife friendly route.  If your land operates as a business you also might qualify for USDA loans or grants.

All else fails, use the old wire to build a three wire fence with the fewest number of posts you can manage.  “Well built” is pretty loosely defined but putting in solid corner and bracing posts Is worth the investment.  If you have never built one, check if one of your neighbors is looking for a hand doing some repairs or replacements and you will quickly learn some valuable tricks.  Would also highly recommend a channel-lock  85 ( and yes the real deal is worth the money, I have a Chinese knockoff I keep in my truck and it’s worthless in comparison).  This summer I put up a fence that I plan to replace in a few years so I used old wire from a fence I removed on another part of the property.  It fights you a bit more than new but it worked just fine.

Check with the local ag office for fence Type recommendations even if they don’t pay for it. In some areas high tension electrified is a more cost effective option in the long run.
 
John C Daley
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channel-lock  85


What is that please?
 
Alex Arn
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Type of fencing pliers made in the USA.  Made specifically for working with wire fences you can do most repair work just with them and a wire stretcher.

https://www.amazon.com/Channellock-85-Fence-Tool/dp/B00910PQXQ
 
pioneer
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I'm sure your a pro at fixing fence but a Handyman jack and a chain works well to pull sunken tposts.then the fence puller to tighten the strand.We have open range out here but the dogs seem to keep the cows back.We just chase um back on there side.Llamas/Donkeys our pretty territorial when raised with livestock.Barbwire will keep um out don't give up.The thought of a living fence as someone suggested would be awesome might take years though.Best of luck.
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