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Fencing and livestock

(30 Posts)
Hopingnwishing Mon 12-Feb-18 17:38:21

So we moved into our smallholding about 18 months ago. It had been left to rack and ruin a bit and at first the horses got out of their field a few times but were always still on our property. We paid someone to stock fence the field properly but there is one fence line that borders our neighbour's forks whuch is not our fence line, it is his, so we didn't pay to fence that as there was a hedge there. December 2016 they broke through the hedge into the neighbour's field which was basically scrub with no crop or livestock... So we put up electric fencing. This worked perfectly thoroughout 2017. My neighbour had said after the horses recalled in December that not too worry he'd be putting a proper fence up in summer 2017. He removed the hedge but ran out of money and didn't fence the field.
Fast forward to January 2018 when we had those awful storms and 80mph winds which blew the electric fence down and the horses got out again for about 30 minutes. We put the electric fencing back up and since then no issues with escaping. He's now threatening us with "legal action" if they escape again onto his land.
I know we are liable for any damage caused (He's not asking for money he just hates us and hates horses) whuch is fine but I'm not sure what legal action he could take if any? We've fenced the field effectively and in those winds people died and lost their roofed etc so my electric fence stood no chance.

DonnyAndVladSittingInATree Mon 12-Feb-18 17:43:41

Obviously you need to fence your land. There is nothing stopping you fencing a foot inside the boundary on your side is there? Problem solved.

Hopingnwishing Mon 12-Feb-18 17:51:26

I should add there is a footpath running along the fence on our side so putting another permanent fence in is difficult. Also there is a gate connecting the 2 fields.

Money is also tight for us at present doo whilst the electric fence is serving its purpose we can't justify paying for his fencing

Thehogfather Mon 12-Feb-18 18:00:02

Legally it's your responsibility to keep them in, not his to keep them out, so what he does with his hedge or fence has no bearing.

Whether your electric fencing could be deemed as a suitable attempt to keep them in and the most recent escape being unforeseen would depend. Proper posts and electric ran from a generator, then you have a point that you'd made all reasonable effort. Those flimsy plastic posts and a cheap battery and it's fairly obvious that it's hardly unusual for a horse to escape through it, let alone in high winds.

Can you honestly say that you'd have been happy with that electric febeing in those winds if your field bordered a motorway? If not then he probably has a point that you aren't taking every possible measure.

As to what he can legally do, he can claim damages, which may or may not be reflective of his actual loss.

I'm not legally qualified, but I know a local farmer who regularly had escaping livestock had the police visit and given an informal warning/ bollocking, despite the fact it was trespassers causing his to escape. So presumably the police can take it further. They definitely can if they get onto public highways and cause chaos if it's deemed to have been negligence that led to the escape.

DonnyAndVladSittingInATree Mon 12-Feb-18 18:07:21

Money is also tight for us at present doo whilst the electric fence is serving its purpose we can't justify paying for his fencing

Sorry but that just doesn’t cut it I’m afraid. If you own animals you have to contain them. You aren’t paying for his fencing, your paying for your own fencing to contain your own animals. It isn’t his responsibility to keep your animals on your land. He could very easily have no hedge at all and put a little tiny fence your horse could step over. It’s your job and your expense go bear as they’re your animals.

DonnyAndVladSittingInATree Mon 12-Feb-18 18:09:43

You’re also paying for your own peace of mind. If you depend on his fence to contain them then your relying on him to check it is secure every day and carry out repairs. He mightn’t, which means your animals are at risk. If it’s your own fence then you know you can check it every day and carry out repairs instantly. What if he leaves the entrance go his field open and your horses escape off his land too? And get knocked down?

Hopingnwishing Mon 12-Feb-18 18:09:59

If my field bordered a motorway then it would be my fence and I'd have fenced it.

Is the electric fencing adequate? Well yes it is as it worked perfectly well until the gales blew it down and is back up and working now. As that was the first time it had ever blown over I had no reason to suspect that would happen. I have the tallest posts available and I bought a cattle strength energiser way more powerful than is strictly necessary for the 20 feet of fence it covers.

This post isn't about who's responsibility it is, I know it is mine to keep them in and as he told us he was fencing that fence line himself last summer and we've got the best electric fencing we can at present I think we've done all we can. We don't have the money to fix his fence line at present.

I am just asking legally what line he could go down? I could understand if they escaped regularly but twice in 13 months isn't exactly frequent.

DonnyAndVladSittingInATree Mon 12-Feb-18 18:12:20

Is the electric fencing adequate? Well yes it is as it worked perfectly well until the gales blew it down and is back up and working now.

So no it isn’t adequate then! hmm how can you say it is adequate when it blew down? confused we had plenty of notice about those strong winds, you should have secured the horses. Strong winds aren’t that odd in winter. Saying the fence is secure except in strong winds Is no defence at all.

Thehogfather Mon 12-Feb-18 18:47:37

You don't need to pay to secure his fence line. You need to pay to keep your animals in. If putting a fence up directly next to his isn't possible because of the footpath, then put it on your side of the footpath. Tbh I'd do that regardless of escaping horses, who wants the public in with them if it's easily avoidable.

Affordability isn't his problem and should have been considered before taking on the land. I don't know anyone experienced who would trust those plastic posts and a battery to keep horses in, let alone in high winds. Only any good for certain horses or if it wouldn't matter too much if they got out. Eg people restricting grazing on their own land.

I do think twice in 13 months is frequent. Excluding fence hoppers, I can't think of anywhere with sturdy fencing that has escapes at all. There's the odd freak occurance like the time a huge tree fell on someone's post and rail in a storm and broke it, or a fat horse on a livery a few miles away that learnt he could kick the rails through and go in search of food. But the only cases I can think of where horses randomly go through fencing it's either inadequate or there is insufficient food and they become desperate to escape.

Hopingnwishing Tue 13-Feb-18 00:38:22

I'm not relying on his fence as there isn't one there at present!!

Hopingnwishing Tue 13-Feb-18 00:48:36

The footpath goes across the field so cannot be fenced off.

Hog are you saying it'd be fine if they hopped the fence then? Because the fence is sturdy? The electric fence we use may not be permanent but they respect it.

As for affordability we had enough money to fence our fence line. The reason we have no money left is bedside the surveyor missed rot in the house and we've had to fix it but we are going down legal channels.

This is NOT a post about your personal opinion on electric fencing. It keeps them in except for on one occasion when we had a storm and it blew down. The neighbour has no complaints about us using it. They have hay ad lib 24/7 so not starved.

I am asking what the legal situation is in general regarding livestock if they get out onto sometime else's land on a very rare basis (I don't agree that twice in 13 months is frequent). If you can't provide any actual sound advice then please take your opinions elsewhere.

MidniteScribbler Tue 13-Feb-18 08:22:17

Gee, I can't imagine why your neighbour is getting fed up with your attitude to his livestock wandering all over his property.

Thehogfather Tue 13-Feb-18 10:27:47

I'm not saying it's fine if they were jumping out. Just pointing out that ime the only escapes through adequate fencing are generally fence hoppers, and after the first time it happens I would say the same, there is a duty to prevent the horse escaping, whether that's by preventing it wanting to or preventing it being able to.

It's simple fact that bar unforeseen freak occurrences, horses don't escape through adequate fencing. And my opinion on electric fencing not being suitable is entirely relevant, given that your horses have demonstrated it isn't keeping them in.

I've known horses that could be contained by slinging split baling twine between trees, and others that need barbed wire on solid post and rail to stop them going through it. As yours appear to fit in the average category that can escape through flimsy electric, it's up to you to provide a fence that does keep them in.

If money is really short, you could put in wooden posts by hand on that stretch (sure you can find someone willing to loan you the tools, maybe neighbour). With taut barbed wire between. Exhausting work and barbed wire isn't ideal, and needs regular checking to stay taut, but cheap and far more sturdy than battery powered electric.

birdladyfromhomealone Tue 13-Feb-18 14:50:24

We also have horses and no way would electric fencing keep mine in, they jump it or go through it as it does not shock them through thick winter rugs.
It is your responsibility to keep them in. You need public liability insurance too. What if your horses got out and kicked someone in the face on the public footpath.
Money being tight regardless you need to adequately house your animals. Fence it.
If they escape and damage your neighbours land he is entitled to compensation.

Moreisnnogedag Tue 13-Feb-18 15:10:32

As to your actual question, apart from damages I don't believe there is a specific offence for escaping livestock onto private land. I think there is if they cause a danger on a public highway. we had post and rail fencing with livestock wire installed by a local guy which was inexpensive.

PoshPenny Tue 13-Feb-18 15:11:06

Why don't you bang in some wooden fence posts (about £4 each) and put the electric fence tape/rope on that. About 3-4 lines should do it. Should be a strong enough fence to keep them in as long as you keep it electrified.

specialsubject Tue 13-Feb-18 17:17:56

Put a proper fence up. I've got a neighbour like you. If the animal tramples or eats the veg patch it will destroy months of work in minutes and there will be no way back that year.

They don't do gardening but we do.

If you can afford a horse you can afford a fence.

stopbeingabloodyvictim Tue 13-Feb-18 17:31:56

If your animals cause damage because they have escaped from your property you are liable for that damage. As pp said unless there is a covenant of some sort that requires him to maintain a fence or hedge he is under no obligation to provide one. The only obligation/requirement is for you to provide an appropriate method of keeping your horses on your property and not on his.

It is also your responsibility to maintain that method of securing your land if as you have found the current method is not adequate then you are responsible for any resulting damage

Hopingnwishing Wed 14-Feb-18 05:43:33

Thank you to the people who actually answered my question. To the others who just went off on one:
1) we have public liability insurance as we are well aware of any damage is caused we have to pay, the horses were in the field for 20 minutes and caused no damage
2) they are kept in by the electric fencing and do not try to jump or push through it even when rugged
3) they have got only got out once when there was electric fencing in place when it was blown down by freak storms. Prior to that there was a fence in place but my neighbour cleared around it without my knowledge which weakened it and allowed them through. from then on we had electric fencing which has proven adequate except for in the freak weather as mentioned before

Ladyflip Wed 14-Feb-18 07:07:56

You are responsible for any damage caused by your horses to his land if they escape. Google the rule in Rylands v Fletcher. This is a separate liability to any criminal offence if they cause an accident on the road.

Get your livestock properly fenced on.

BubblesBuddy Wed 14-Feb-18 17:58:21

You have to fence around a footpath and leave 6ft width for it.

I have post and rail fences around my property with horses in the paddocks and if you can afford horses you must keep them fenced in. If your neighbour cleared his land that was up to him.

I would get on with it or sell your horses.

Scrowy Wed 14-Feb-18 18:13:26

No one is going 'off on one' except you OP, you just appear cross and defensive that people are saying that you need to pay for proper fencing.

People gave you the legal advice you asked for, you didn't like it and kept coming up with reasons why you couldn't/shouldn't/wouldn't.

Electric fencing might be adequate to separate areas on your own land but its not suitable as a boundary between different owners for the very reasons you have identified, plus other common causes of electric fence failure such as theft/ damage.

Pinkponiesrock Wed 14-Feb-18 18:22:38

I have horses and I’m a farmer, so I can see both sides.
However he only has to fence the field to meet his needs, so as sounds like it’s in set aside he doesn’t need any fencing, as his grass isn’t likely to escape.

However fencing around livestock needs to be fit for purpose. I’m assuming that there’s not much of a fence round any of his field so the ponies could end up anywhere.

I know what ponies are like, but in the interests of their safety, public safety as your on a footpath and neighbourly relations I’d get a fence up.

If his field is in set aside then he could lose his greening payment and other subsidies if it’s not left completely undisturbed for the defined period.

Hopingnwishing Thu 15-Feb-18 19:18:31

actually scrowy they gave legal advice which wasn't asked for....i didn't ask who's responsibility it is as like I've said I'm well aware of that, but that's all people have focused on hence my frustration.
The neighbour is not a farmer per se... he is a hobby farmer in the sense that he works away in the city all week and pays someone else to look after his 6 sheep so I'm not sure it is set aside land as he has a poly tunnel and greenhouse in it. There was a fence there but he removed it last summer saying he was going to replace it but didn't and the ground conditions mean that nothing can be done until Spring.

Scrowy Thu 15-Feb-18 19:48:34

Right well the legal position is the Animal Act 1971.

But it's an online forum, you can't control the information to just the stuff you want to hear (which was I assume, that your neighbour wouldn't be able to chase you for compensation for any damage, which he can). If you want straight legal advice without the added opinion from the people giving it that you are being irresponsible in not fencing properly then pay a solicitor instead (although they will just say the same, in a more expensive and slightly politer way)

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