Legal Insight. Business Instinct.

Agister’s liens

I didn’t panic when my small herd of Black Angus cows mutinied and jumped the fence to join my neighbor’s much larger herd of cows. Instead, I called my neighbor and explained that because of my work schedule I couldn’t get my cows until Saturday. I asked if she would feed and care for my wayward animals, to which she graciously agreed. One week turned into two, and then two almost turned into three. When I finally retrieved my cows I offered to pay my neighbor, knowing that she was entitled by law to an agister’s lien on my mutinous herd.

An agister’s lien is created when a party takes possession of another’s livestock and agrees to assume exclusive care and responsibility for the livestock, including grazing, feeding, or pasturing the livestock. The purpose behind an agister’s lien is to protect parties that agree to care for and feed another’s livestock. The party that agrees to care for the livestock is considered the lienholder in this arrangement.

Idaho Code § 45-805(b) states that “[l]ivery or boarding or feed stable proprietors, and persons pasturing livestock of any kind,” are entitled to a lien for his or her compensation in caring for the livestock.

The agister’s lien created by Idaho Code § 45-805(b) is “dependent on possession.” This means that a lienholder must maintain possession of the animals in order to preserve the lien. A lienholder will lose the agister’s lien on livestock if he or she voluntarily parts with the livestock to which the lien attaches. However, if the lienholder only parts with the livestock conditionally, and with the intention to preserve the lien, the lien survives. Furthermore, if the original owner takes the livestock back through force or fraud, the agister’s lien survives.

Assuming that the agister’s lien is still in place, and the original owner does not pay the lienholder for caring for the owner’s livestock, the lienholder is then entitled to sell the livestock at a licensed public livestock market. Before selling the livestock, the lienholder must provide ten-day notice of the sale to both the original owner and the state brand inspector.

These notices must contain the following information: the time, place, and date of the auction market; contact information for the lienholder; contact information for the original owner of the livestock; the number, breed, and current brand of the livestock upon which the lien has been placed; and a statement by the lienholder that he or she has complied with the requirements set forth in Idaho Code § 45-805.

If the lienholder follows these steps, he or she may then sell the livestock. After paying off any prior perfected security interests, the lienholder is then entitled to use the proceeds to pay off his or her agister’s lien. If there are any remaining proceeds after satisfying those debts, the original owner is then entitled to the remaining funds.

Remember, the law protects the agister who feeds, and waters, and cares for your animals.

– Lance J. Schuster is a lawyer at Beard St. Clair Gaffney. He and his wife raise kids and cattle on their small farm near Idaho Falls. He can be reached at 523-5171 or

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