Wayward cattle put rancher in crosshairs
Too many of Randy Eitzen’s cattle roaming on too many neighbors’ land and trampling crops has him in the crosshairs of both the sheriff and county commissioners.
Sheriff Jeff Soyez told commissioners Monday that his office had a growing issue with Eitzen’s cattle getting onto other landowners’ property and onto county roads.
Neighbors Lyle Leppke and Larry Andres told commissioners how often Eitzen’s cattle had been found on their land and in roadways.
The problem began as soon as Eitzen started keeping cattle and has gotten worse, Leppke said.
Eitzen has 150 to 200 head of cattle and didn’t put up a fence because Leppke already had one, Leppke said.
“Not everyone wants to say anything at this point, but I’m ready to stand up and fight,” Leppke said.
He said he had found several of Eitzen’s cattle on 60 acres of his wheat. It’s affecting about 30% of his wheat crop.
When he recently confronted Eitzen, Eitzen told him he didn’t know whose cattle they were or how to get the cattle off Leppke’s land, Leppke said.
The cattle have been eating Leppke’s bales of hay.
“If I go out there with a four-wheeler and load it with feed, my cattle will follow me to the state line,” he said.
Leppke said Eitzen told him Leppke’s property was “land I haven’t bought yet.”
Appraiser’s records show Eitzen owns 7,715 acres of land.
“I don’t think I should have to spend all my energy to build fences to keep his cattle out,” Leppke said.
County counsel Brad Jantz told Leppke that Kansas has “fenced-in” laws, not “fenced-out” laws. Fences are to be installed to keep cattle inside the owner’s property.
Eitzen’s loose cattle are a liability not just for neighbors but also for the county as well, Leppke and Andres said.
Andres said he’d seen Eitzen’s cattle on roadways where a driver might not see them until after cresting a hill.
“If somebody gets killed on the road, on US-50, someone’s going to have a field day,” Andres said.
Leppke told commissioner’s he’d started calling the sheriff’s office every time Eitzen’s cattle were on his land, just to have it on the record.
“If he gives me permission to shoot four, the next day, there will be seven,” he said.
Soyez said he could enforce trespassing laws but thought Eitzen should be responsible for criminal damage to his neighbor’s property.
His office has enough to do without having to go out and get people to bring their cattle home, he said.
Jantz said he would speak to county attorney Joel Ensey about the problem.
Leppke has put up a sign on his property that reads, “Notice: Stray cattle will be gathered up and sold. A fee of $100 a day per head if the cattle are identified.”
“Is there some way I can get the board to send him a certified letter that you are being looked at, to put him on notice?” Soyez asked.
Commissioners took no vote on Soyez’s question, but they voiced agreement with his suggestion.
Commissioners also agreed to go Thursday morning to look at Eitzen’s fences.
Last modified April 19, 2023