Estray Livestock

Ag Biz News Column
Chad Gulley
County Extension Agent –Ag/NR
Smith County

Estray Livestock

From time to time, livestock may get out of the fenced pasture or area they are being kept. The Texas Agriculture Code, Title 6, Subtitle B, Chapter 142 provides details of how estray cattle are to be handled.

Many times when cattle are out on the highway, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) are the first ones called. Texas State law in section 142.003 states, “the owner of the private property or the custodian of the public property, as applicable, shall as soon as reasonably possible, report the presence of the estray to the sheriff of the county in which the estray is discovered.”

The sheriff’s office and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association special rangers have an excellent working relationship. Working together they can properly identify the owner of the livestock to return the estray to the proper owner.

There are time limits set in Chapter 142 of the Texas Agriculture Code to follow in estray cases to minimize damage to property on which the cattle are grazing as well as minimize losses to the value of the cattle.

Some Texas counties have a full-time livestock animal control deputy and a facility for holding impounded livestock found wandering freely. The sheriff’s department impounds the livestock and begins the search for the owner.

If after a diligent search for the estray’s owner still is unknown, the sheriff is directed by law to post a notice of the impoundment on the public notice board of the courthouse. The sheriff’s department will also advertise the estray in the local newspaper at least twice during a 15 day period.

There is no such thing as finder’s keepers regarding estray livestock in Texas or Oklahoma. The finder of an estray may be charged with “Theft of Livestock” if he or she disposed of the estray outside of the estray procedure (Section 142 of the Texas Agriculture Code and Title 4-85.3 of the Oklahoma Animal Code).

Permanent identification of the livestock is important to assist in the recovery to the owner. Brands, ear tags, and tattoos are forms of identification for livestock species. Owners can keep records of livestock including marks, brands, ear tags, tattoos, scars, or other distinguishing characteristics. Photos may also be helpful in the recovery of livestock to the owner. Ear tags may be used in combination with other forms of permanent idenfication as well.

Livestock brands should be registered with the County Clerk’s Office. If you run livestock in more than one county, it would be beneficial to check with the County Clerk’s Office in each county if you intend on branding your livestock. Brands can be registered anytime but the re-registration process takes place every ten years on years ending in 1.

Ranching cattle
For more information on stray cattle, access the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association’s website at

Educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information or veteran status.
The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating

Comments are closed.