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The fence law (12/12/2012)
From: Dick Gallien

In the early 70s, the sheriff called my wife at Washington-Kosciusko, saying that Juan, our Charolais bull, and his harem were crossing a field toward Hwy. 43 and Winona. I was 40 miles away, so she and some farm neighbors helped bring them home.

Today, that field is full of houses with manicured lawns. our farmer friends are long gone and our herd of cattle is growing. Seemed a good time to test the old adage, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Five neighbors looked forward to the buckthorn jungle in their back yards being replaced with cattle grazing securely on grass. They all understood that the equipment involved in building a professional fence might straddle the line, or maneuver to one side or the other, to save trees, except one, who refused to let the fencer’s machines cross the line.

The Minnesota Fencing Statutes state clearly that even if you don’t have cattle, you are responsible for the building and maintenance of half of your line fence. Two passes with the fencer’s Terrex PT 100 would have ground up the buckthorn and given him room to install a five strand, high tensile fence, two strands being electric, without removing any big trees, but that neighbor said no. By phone, the sheriff told him that we were being generous, by not asking him to pay anything toward building the fence, then the sheriff told us that the fencers’ equipment would be confiscated if he drove over the line. The township’s Minneapolis lawyer suggested we wait until spring, or that the owner might someday sell.

Two squads of Winona’s Finest were invited to this neighborly gathering. They would have left this county party even sooner if they had heard a woman erroneously screeching “This is YOUR fence, old man.”

Because of the drought, a big round bale of hay is up to $100 and our herd will be eating a bale a day, once the snow flies. The fence would have been finished and the cattle would have been grazing the adjoining fields until the snow flies.

In the 70s, dogs were chasing our cattle and killing our sheep. The sheriff told me we had every right to shoot the dogs and if needed, he would help. We have pictures of the neighbor’s big dog chasing our cattle. Only in that field, which our cattle have grazed for years with no problem, before their dog arrived, has the herd blown right through the electric fence, into the neighbor’s field, which infuriated them.

Surviving on a small farm isn’t easy, which is one of the reasons there are few left. I hate killing anything and had many opportunities and justifications in this case, but it isn’t the poor dog’s fault that their owners don’t know the rural dog law anymore than they know the fence law.

Enter the township’s “Fence Viewer,” who impartially collects the facts and informs all parties of their rights and responsibilities, according to the Minnesota State Fence Statute.

The decision was quick and painless. As a result, one old dog and one old man were very relieved to hear that there never really was a problem. 


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