'Are farmers allowed to let cattle out on the road to eat the grass verge. My driveway is destroyed'

Who owns the grass on the side of the road?

Deirdre Flynn

I recently moved into a house on a quiet country road which gets very little traffic.

However an elderly farm on the road lets his cattle out on the road all the time to eat the grass on the verges.

Is this legal the road is covered in manure and my driveway is destroyed?

I don’t have a cattle grid on my entrance and the cattle have wandered down the road for fresh grass a few times and once ended up on my lawn.

Deirdre replies:

Thank you for your query and unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in the countryside.

You say you moved into a house on a quiet country road and an elderly farmer lets his cattle out on the road to eat the grass at the verge. The first question that springs to mind is who owns the road? Is it a private road or is the road taken in charge by the Local Authority?

When you purchase a property, the question of access is paramount and therefore, you should speak with your solicitor to get confirmation from him/her as to whether the road is private or public. 

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Your solicitor would also be able to confirm this by firstly, looking up the Land Registry website and secondly, sending a map to the Local Authority and getting written confirmation on whether or not the road is taken in charge. There is a fee due to the Local Authority for obtaining this confirmation.

You go on to say that your “driveway is destroyed” and “the cattle have wandered down the road….and once ended up on [your] lawn.” The legal position is that the owner of ‘cattle’ who trespass, of their accord, from their owner’s land onto their neighbour’s property is liable, irrespective of whether the owner of those cattle was negligent. ‘Cattle’ does not include dogs, cats or wild animals, but will include horses, sheep, goats, pigs, asses, domestic fowl and domesticated deer.

You say the cattle wander down the road but that the elderly farmer “lets” them out on the road. Cattle that stray onto your land of their own accord, in that they are not driven on to it, are treated differently, depending on the circumstances.

If the cattle were being lawfully driven on a public road, you would have to prove the owner of the cattle was in some way negligent and he would then be liable for the damage caused by the cattle.

It is important to note that any individual holding livestock on his land needs to take all reasonable precautions to prevent them from escaping and owes a duty to behave as a reasonable person would under the circumstances.

You say the cattle destroyed your driveway and once ended up in your lawn. If the cattle caused damage to your lawn, then you should quantify that damage and this damage may be recoverable.

You could get an estimate from a landscaper as to how much it would cost to put the lawn back to the way it was before it was damaged by the cattle.

As you are living down a quiet country road, you should try to keep relations as amicable as possible with your neighbour as you will have to live near him after this issue is resolved. You should try to speak with your neighbour and inform him of the damage his cattle is doing, both on the road and to your property.

Before speaking with him, it would be a good idea to establish the position regarding the road leading to your house and ascertain whether it is a public or a private road. Your solicitor will advise you on this. If there is work to be done to rectify any damage to your property as a result of the cattle trespass, then you should bring that to your neighbour’s attention and inform him of the amount required.

If your neighbour does not agree to rectify the situation or indeed discharge the sum required to carry out the remedial works, then you will have to obtain advices from your solicitor in taking an action against the neighbour for cattle trespass.

Deirdre Flynn is from a farming background and practices as a Solicitor at Deirdre Flynn Solicitors, Cathedral View, Ardfert, Co. Kerry Tel: 066 7115695   Email: info@deirdreflynnsolicitors.ie

The information in this article is intended as a general guide only. While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information provided, Deirdre Flynn does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising. You should seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances at the earliest possible time.

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