Jack decided to pursue his dream of owning a ranch. It was Jack’s plan to raise cattle for profit. Jack found some farmland in Montana that he thought would work out well. The land was undeveloped and had no fence around its boundary. Jack wondered whether he would be required to erect a fence. The cost of a fence around such a large parcel of property would be quite significant. Jack needs more information.

Nearly every state and/or locality has a law with regard to fences and livestock. Generally speaking, the laws fall into two categories: open range and closed range. As the matter is governed by state law and local ordinances, the applicable law should be consulted for further details.

Open Range

The phrase “open range” refers to an area where animals are permitted to wander freely. Neighboring property owners have the responsibility of putting up fences to protect their property. Typically, the governing law sets forth the details as to what types of fences may be erected to keep livestock off a given property.

Closed Range

In a “closed range” area, the owner of livestock must erect a fence for the purpose of containing the livestock. The law prohibits the livestock from wandering about freely. Here again, the applicable law often specifies what types of fences are permissible.