Range Management Expert Opines on Accident Caused by Escaped Cattle

Joseph O'Neill

Written by
— Updated on June 13, 2017

Management Expert WitnessThis case involves cattle that got loose and were struck on a roadway in Oklahoma, causing a fatal accident. During the year of the incident in question, the region suffered from a severe drought. The Defendants were responsible for maintaining the fences of a nearby pasture. When cattle do not have enough to eat in the pasture, they tend to reach through fences to grab nearby grass. Eventually, they will lean on the fence, and will eventually work through the fence to get to fresh grass, allowing them to get loose. It was alleged that the defendants were not maintaining the pasture fencing properly to accommodate for the cattle’s behavior during the drought.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Do you have familiarity with the subject matter described above?
  • 2. How should grazing practices be accommodated during a drought?
  • 3. Have you worked on a range/pasture during a drought?
  • 4. What measures could have been in place to avoid the incident?

Expert Witness Response E-037038

I have a personal familiarity with this subject, as I grew up on a cattle farm. I have conducted research in rural areas on cattle farms and ranches. Additionally, I have worked on ranges during droughts. When forage production declines, as in times of drought, cattle ought to be moved to fresh pasture and be brought supplemental feed. In general, however, I think the link between behavior and drought is weak. The reference to “fresh grass” in the overview must be substantiated, as drought affects both sides of the fence and it is unlikely that forage in the road ditch during the drought was so attractive to cattle that they broke out specifically for it. From what I see here there’s little to implicate the drought in negligent fence maintenance. If the fence was under adequate maintenance for non-drought conditions, there should not be a case against the stockman. But if it can be established the fence was sub-standard, the drought is irrelevant.

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