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Good Fences Still Make for Good Neighbors

June 12, 2013

By Phil Harris, UW-Extension Farm Law Specialist, UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

(To download mp3 file: for PC users, right click and select "Save Link As"; for Mac users, Ctrl+ click and select "Save Link As")


3:06 – Total Time

0:18 – Livestock and fence responsibility
0:41 – What a legal fence is
1:03 – Fences and neighbors
1:29 – Who inspects fences
1:48 – When electric fences are legal fences
2:15 – Non livestock owners and fences
2:37 – If the cows get out
2:56 – Lead out

Sevie Kenyon: Phil, if I own livestock, what are my responsibilities for fencing?

Phil Harris: In Wisconsin, a livestock owner has a duty to keep his or her livestock fenced in. And what that’s going to mean is that they have to have a fence that is reasonably maintained so that under normal circumstances cattle or other livestock can’t escape through that fence.

Sevie Kenyon: And can you perhaps describe for us what a legal fence looks like?

Phil Harris: There’s several different fences that are treated as legal fences under Wisconsin statutes. For example, a woven wire fence that has a woven wire three feet high with three barbed wires above it on posts that are set not more than one rod apart is one of the definitions of a legal fence.

Sevie Kenyon: And Phil if I have a neighbor, what’s my relationship with him and his fence?

Phil Harris: Wisconsin law requires adjoining landowners to each maintain one half of the fence on their common property line. Often called the ‘right hand rule,’ they each take care of the right half of the fence, that is, as they’re standing in the middle of the fence facing each other, each on their own land facing each other, they each maintain the right hand half of that fence.

Sevie Kenyon: Phil, who determines whether you’ve maintained your fences?

Phil Harris: Wisconsin statutes designate fence viewers as the judge of whether or not a fence meets the legal standards. And fence viewers are further defined as members of the town board.

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