Can I legally own a Dairy cow????

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The Knowles Fam

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So I have heard through others that as long as you are not in a city limit you can own a cow.
I cant seem to find ANY info on this subject even going through the county page.
im not trying to sell/make money off the land (maybe in the future that will change)

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the parcel im looking at is 2 acers of land and says its zoned as residential. my question is, can i have a dairy cow?

do I have to own land that is zoned for agricultural to have a dairy cow?

where is the line and what would i have to do if the land is too good to pass up in order to own a dairy cow?
 

bird dog

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My home place is in the city limits on 9 acres with the border being the paved road across the front of the property. City ordinance says no livestock within the city limits. I had to apply for a variance to the city ordinance. It was not a big deal just writing a request letter, getting it notarized and presenting it to the city. They took it before the city council and had the cities lawyer look at it before approving it with some restriction like no pigs and not more than 30 animals. The public had 30 days to object.
There was a fee but it wasn't much but that was a long time ago.

Do a little research and ask some questions, maybe you will get lucky. Or just put one out there and see if anyone tells you different. Is there any livestock on other properties of the same size?
 

RDFF

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My home place is in the city limits on 9 acres with the border being the paved road across the front of the property. City ordinance says no livestock within the city limits. I had to apply for a variance to the city ordinance. It was not a big deal just writing a request letter, getting it notarized and presenting it to the city. They took it before the city council and had the cities lawyer look at it before approving it with some restriction like no pigs and not more than 30 animals. The public had 30 days to object.
There was a fee but it wasn't much but that was a long time ago.

Do a little research and ask some questions, maybe you will get lucky. Or just put one out there and see if anyone tells you different. Is there any livestock on other properties of the same size?
I'd be cautious/skeptical about trying to get a variance. I'm out in the country where we're zoned "ag protection district"... so ag is supposed to be protected, by ordinance, from the negative impacts of OTHER interests TO AGRICULTURE, like residential, out here. In your district, RESIDENTIAL is intended to be protected from other interests, like agriculture, or commercial, or manufacturing, etc. However, whenever I've applied for any kind of variance, here, or at my previous place, which was also zoned agricultural, you have had to be able to PROVE some kind of serious "hardship" that the restrictions that are in place are imposing upon you (and financial hardship DOES NOT qualify). Without an acceptable and REAL "hardship", the variance is automatically a no go. The reason for this is so that they don't have individuals applying for variances all the time... to basically do something that the zoning restrictions that were put in place intended to prevent from happening, and thereby, nullifying the intent of the zoning district entirely.

This isn't what most people want to hear though, so the advice from the zoning/permitting guys will be, "Well, you can apply for a variance. Get your paperwork in order, file for the variance (for a fairly hefty fee), and see what they say." Invariably, the fee is a couple hundred bucks, which goes into the county/township kitty. And invariably, the variance is turned down, absent of some really realistic and serious "hardship". The county/town board takes all the heat for telling you no... and the zoning guy "was just doing his job, honestly telling you what your options were, and allowing you to pursue every plan of recourse that was available to you".

Personally, I AGREE with this (automatic denial of a variance request, absent of "real and serious hardship"), at least in the absence of elimination of "zoning districts" entirely, and then a court system that recognizes that an individuals personal property rights are sovereign. Zoning district ordinances have been put in place for a reason... to avoid the conflicts that inevitably arise when competing interests locate too closely to each other. There WAS a time when you could do with your property what you wanted... we lost that individual freedom a long time ago! (Unfortunately... we give away our rights in this country without realizing it like candy at a 4th of July parade!). People started to complain about what their neighbor was doing on his own property next door.... lawsuits happened..... everybody was mad.... and so to put an end to the insanity.... ZONING ORDINANCES came into being. In an ag protection district, the homeowner that builds a house in the ag district OUGHT TO HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT, and SHOULD have NO RECOURSE, to complain about the neighbor who wants to build a cattle feedlot on his own ag protection district property next door! The ordinances were put in place to protect THE AG INTEREST FROM the complaints/desires of the non-ag interest. Build a new house on your land out in the country if you want to, but realize that you're probably going to smell manure, and hear cattle and machinery and have some dust... and DON'T COME COMPLAINING TO THE TOWN BOARD TO PROTECT YOU WHEN THAT HAPPENS. Don't try to claim that the ag interests around you are "devaluing your property". And don't try to sue your neighbor over it. If you want "protection" from ag interests, then go build your house in a RESIDENTIAL DISTRICT! That's where you have that protection... and that's where that feedlot is not allowed to be built. But out here in the country, we've designated THIS area for agricultural use! More and more though, that's NOT how it is, because we in ag are now outnumbered by the non-ag residences, even in the ag protection districts. It's very, very sad!

Bending the rules by allowing "variances" goes against everything that the zoning ordinances were attempting to prevent. There's a reason why the ordinances were drafted the way they were. IF... yes, IF the residential district ordinances don't allow you to have "a cow", there's a reason why they've implemented those restrictions. There is eventually going to be nothing but houses out there. And those neighbors don't want to be hearing or smelling cattle.... that's what it comes down to. And if you have one, you can bet that sooner or later, the town board that allowed a variance AGAINST the zoning ordinance is going to be sued over it.

Yeah.... you asked............ and I gave you MY two cents worth. This IS a personal liberty sore spot for me........ I'm tired of us not having our personal property rights respected. I'd prefer that they didn't allow ANY non-ag housing in the ag protection district, unless they're going to be willing to allow everybody to do whatever they want to with their own property, and then throw out all the lawsuits that arise over one person complaining about what their neighbor is doing on HIS property!
 
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The Knowles Fam

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I'd be cautious/skeptical about trying to get a variance. I'm out in the country where we're zoned "ag protection district"... so ag is supposed to be protected, by ordinance, from the negative impacts of OTHER interests, like residential, out here. In your district, RESIDENTIAL is intended to be protected from other interests, like agriculture, or commercial, or manufacturing, etc. However, whenever I've applied for any kind of variance, here, or at my previous place, which was also zoned agricultural, you have had to be able to PROVE some kind of serious "hardship" that the restrictions that are in place are imposing upon you (and financial hardship DOES NOT qualify). Without an acceptable and REAL "hardship", the variance is automatically a no go. The reason for this is so that they don't have individuals applying for variances all the time... to basically do something that the zoning restrictions that were put in place intended to prevent from happening, and thereby, nullifying the intent of the zoning district entirely.

This isn't what most people want to hear though, so the advice from the zoning/permitting guys will be, "Well, you can apply for a variance. Get your paperwork in order, file for the variance (for a fairly hefty fee), and see what they say." Invariably, the fee is a couple hundred bucks, which goes into the county/township kitty. And invariably, the variance is turned down, absent of some really realistic and serious "hardship". The county/town board takes all the heat for telling you no... and the zoning guy "was just doing his job, honestly telling you what your options were, and allowing you to pursue every plan of recourse that was available to you".

Personally, I AGREE with this (automatic denial of a variance request, absent of "real and serious hardship"), at least in the absence of elimination of "zoning districts" entirely, and then a court system that recognizes that an individuals personal property rights are sovereign. Zoning district ordinances have been put in place for a reason... to avoid the conflicts that inevitably arise when competing interests locate too closely to each other. There WAS a time when you could do with your property what you wanted... we lost that individual freedom a long time ago! (Unfortunately... we give away our rights in this country without realizing it like candy at a 4th of July parade!). People started to complain about what their neighbor was doing on his own property next door.... lawsuits happened..... everybody was mad.... and so to put an end to the insanity.... ZONING ORDINANCES came into being. In an ag protection district, the homeowner that builds a house in the ag district OUGHT TO HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT, and SHOULD have NO RECOURSE, to complain about the neighbor who wants to build a cattle feedlot on his own ag protection district property next door! The ordinances were put in place to protect THE AG INTEREST FROM the complaints/desires of the non-ag interest. Build a new house on your land out in the country if you want to, but realize that you're probably going to smell manure, and hear cattle and machinery and have some dust... and DON'T COME COMPLAINING TO THE TOWN BOARD TO PROTECT YOU WHEN THAT HAPPENS. Don't try to claim that the ag interests around you are "devaluing your property". And don't try to sue your neighbor over it. If you want "protection" from ag interests, then go build your house in a RESIDENTIAL DISTRICT! That's where you have that protection... and that's where that feedlot is not allowed to be built. But out here in the country, we've designated THIS area for agricultural use! More and more though, that's NOT how it is, because we in ag are now outnumbered by the non-ag residences, even in the ag protection districts. It's very, very sad!

Bending the rules by allowing "variances" goes against everything that the zoning ordinances were attempting to prevent. There's a reason why the ordinances were drafted the way they were. IF... yes, IF the residential district ordinances don't allow you to have "a cow", there's a reason why they've implemented those restrictions. There is eventually going to be nothing but houses out there. And those neighbors don't want to be hearing or smelling cattle.... that's what it comes down to. And if you have one, you can bet that sooner or later, the town board that allowed a variance AGAINST the zoning ordinance is going to be sued over it.

Yeah.... you asked............ and I gave you MY two cents worth. This IS a personal liberty sore spot for me........ I'm tired of us not having our personal property rights respected. I'd prefer that they didn't allow ANY non-ag housing in the ag protection district, unless they're going to be willing to allow everybody to do whatever they want to with their own property, and then throw out all the lawsuits that arise over one person complaining about what their neighbor is doing on HIS property!
okay so it seems like you have had quite a bit of issues pertaining to this and thats exactly what i wanted to know. it sounds to me like if the property is zoned residential then i should cross it off my potential buy list and look for AG. my goal is to start a small homestead that i can supply my family with nourishment off the land, be it meat birds, produce, milk, pork. i dont want to be told i cant raise something on my lot that i spend my life's savings on.
 
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The Knowles Fam

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My home place is in the city limits on 9 acres with the border being the paved road across the front of the property. City ordinance says no livestock within the city limits. I had to apply for a variance to the city ordinance. It was not a big deal just writing a request letter, getting it notarized and presenting it to the city. They took it before the city council and had the cities lawyer look at it before approving it with some restriction like no pigs and not more than 30 animals. The public had 30 days to object.
There was a fee but it wasn't much but that was a long time ago.

Do a little research and ask some questions, maybe you will get lucky. Or just put one out there and see if anyone tells you different. Is there any livestock on other properties of the same size?
its hard to tell because the land is out of state. i will not make that trip until i have multiple "maybe" properties in sight. i dont want to go through the variance process for all the animals i want on my land. not too much but then again "too much" is relative. im looking to raise 15-20 cornish cross at a time, 15-20 barred rock for eggs, a dairy cow (later on down the road) maybe some ducks and possibly a pig if we can handle it. i dont want to be fighting with neighbors or applying for variances every other year. If an agricultural zoned land is what i need then i wont settle for anything else if it will make life easier.
 
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The Knowles Fam

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okay so it seems like you have had quite a bit of issues pertaining to this and thats exactly what i wanted to know. it sounds to me like if the property is zoned residential then i should cross it off my potential buy list and look for AG. my goal is to start a small homestead that i can supply my family with nourishment off the land, be it meat birds, produce, milk, pork. i dont want to be told i cant raise something on my lot that i spend my life's savings on.
another problem is a lot of rural land is zoned residential. i cant grasp this concept. im talkin 10+ acres as residential with a mobile home on it.
 

Lilac

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I can only speak for my area but some "livestock" is allowed in city limits but you also have to consider "neighborhood" zones/districts. Lots of cities also have different overlays/neighborhoods and you need to be aware of the rules. I'm not talking about HOA's. I have a friend that lived in Portland, OR a few years ago. The first house/neighborhood they lived in allowed pigs in city limits. You could have any size of pig as long as you had no more than 2 on your property. But when they sold their first house and bought a second house in a different neighborhood, same city, that neighborhood had different rules. They allowed however many pigs you wanted as long as their total weight wasn't more than 100lbs.

There are other ways of getting legitimately getting around zoning codes and restrictions without variances. But you really need to do your due diligence before purchasing. That should be something your realtor can help you with though you really should double check with city or county planning for the area you want to buy in. I would recommend being as polite and vague as possible and seeing where the planning employee takes the conversation. From personal experience I have learned a lot more that way, then telling them exactly what I want to do. I would also specifically ask them for all the online resources to research this yourself.

I would check online to see if your city/county has all the land use and building codes available online. Many counties and cities do now a days. If the land you are interested in is located in the country that could mean it is regulated by the county but uses local city regulations. That can get confusing and may make it so you have to speak with county planning more often. That is the case with my location. All building, electrical codes use the guidelines laid out by the largest city, the plumbing codes were developed by the smaller city and land use is regulated by county. So depending on what I want to do I have to check up to 3 websites to get the information I want prior to talking to the appropriate planning (city vs county).

Another thing I will do is come in 2 different days and make sure I get to talk to 2 different planners. I know it sounds like a waste of time and it is, but I've learned more this way and its has helped me figure out what planners I want to avoid in my county/city.

In your case I would contact them and just ask what all you can do with the land you are interested in. If they don't give you a good enough answer (which they won't) I would ask about what animals are allowed and with what restrictions. If they ask what you plan on doing I would just reply "I have no idea, I just really like the land and would like to purchase it but I want to know what my options are before purchasing so I know what I can pursue if I feel the inclination." Polite but stupid will get you SO much information and help you make friends with county/city planning!!!

My property/location is a good example. A lot of what is allowed and is considered agriculture or residential is decided by your intent. To be specific I have "livestock" on my property (mini pig, horses, and a steer) but I am allowed to have them bc they are pets. What qualifies them as pets vs livestock is their ability to reproduce (according to the land use restrictions in my area). My pigs are spayed, my mares are too old to reproduce (without help) though they are still young enough to work, and I own no intact male animals. For example if I had a intact male dog and more than 2 intact female dogs I would have to register as a kennel (obviously that's only if county found out, like in the instance I irritate a neighbor and they turned me in).

Sorry for the long answer, hope it helps! Good luck!
 

sstterry

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KAstocker is right. It will depend on your municipality's Ordinances. Unless it is restricted by zoning or ordinance, then you may not even have any problem. Just call the local enforcement office.
 

RDFF

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Other option... it's often easier to claim ignorance and ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission............ you can only do that once though.
 
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SixMileCountry

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My concern would be that only have one cow since they are a herd animal. We had a neighbor that only had one cow that was kept in a good size dog yard with a sheep and that animal escaped and got into another neighbors fence and did some damage. Long story short it became ground beef. If you are going to have one I would make sure it is a hefty fence where it cant jump over or brake thru.
 

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Agree that you need to see what your particular city/county has as zoning ordinances. I just bought a house on 2 acres in the county.... zoned ag, but 2 acres is the minimum size lot.... I can have anything I want here..... Subdivision up the road has lots that are bigger... most are 3-8 acres.... restricted covenants for that development.... cattle are allowed... but we cannot park our tractors on the 3+ acres my son bought at auction and makes hay off of..... no hogs, not sure about chickens.... screwy wording on what is allowed and what is not. Some stuff is grandfathered in from before zoning was put in, or changed....
 

RDFF

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Knowles Fam, you're on the right track, IMO. For what you have in mind, you'll need to stay away from anything zoned residential, and look for something in the ag district.

When you move there though, remember what I've warned you about.......... From what you've described, you WON'T be an agricultural residence (even though you may consider yourself to be one, and perhaps technically, according to the particular zoning regulations in that district, you may even officially "qualify" as one).

The way it sounds, your primary source of income will not be made from farming the land you will live on. That's a VERY big difference, even if you do want to have some animals. All farming is NOT animal agriculture (and maybe that's too bad really, but that's MY opinion). Some of the reason for that is that much of animal agriculture has been turned over to the CAFO's, because consumers enmasse have opted to buy it from them, because it's "cheaper", and that drove "Grandpa's farm" farmers out of business, just like the Mom and Pop retail stores ended up throwing in the towel when Walmart, Costco, Home Depot and Lowes showed up. Be aware that agriculture is no longer "Grandpa's farm". But it IS still where you're neighbors are working hard to figure out how to eek out a reasonable living from the land.

It's great that you want to live out in the country and grow your own food! Beautiful! Who wouldn't want that, IMO. But remember that you're neighbors are struggling to make a living out there, and are putting it all on the line every year, with no "guaranteed income" on the other end. Remember that THAT'S not so easy. Remember that they have rights to farm their land the way that they want to, just like you will hopefully have the right to live on your land the way that YOU want to. And remember that in an agricultural protection district, if your home is reduced in value BECAUSE your neighbor is "farming" alongside of it, then that's YOUR fault, NOT his, for selecting to own a home (residence) in an agricultural district.

The ag district came first... then you decided to move into it, KNOWING that it was zoned for AGRICULTURE... for all that that means, not only for today... but that also includes what agriculture WILL be in the future! Grandpa's 80 acre farm used horses or perhaps a 40 hp tractor, and had a windmill on it, no electricity, no running water, no telephone, no internet, poor roads, and very little "services". EVERYTHING in agriculture has gotten MUCH bigger. Horses and 40 hp tractors have been replaced with 650 hp tractors, the windmill has been replaced with one 5 times bigger. Roads got paved, electricity got run out into the country, etc. All that "progress" costs money. Lots of wind farms, and solar farms, are being built on farmland today... I don't necessarily like it, but that is the current climate we are "farming" in. Who knows what "farming" will look like 30 or 50 years from now.

Perhaps here's an idea worth considering though................... maybe you should consider buying your house in a nice residentially zoned district, and then seek out some local regenerative farmers to supply your family with the wholesome nourishment you desire. "Know, and support, your local farmer". Help "Grandpa's farm" to survive and be profitable again, because he's supplying you with a value added product, and you recognize that, and are willing to reward him for it at a price that is reasonable. You both could be winners. The "home" (residence) that you "spend your life savings on" will be protected from the potential negative impacts of agriculture, and the agricultural community will be protected from potential negative "residential impacts" to it as well.
 
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RDFF

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Some stuff is grandfathered in from before zoning was put in, or changed....
Often, if a practice was already in place on a property when the ordinance that will forbid it changes, it is grandfathered in FOR THE CURRENT OWNER, but it typically will not be permitted on that property into the future when the property changes hands. Sometimes the "grandfathering in" may still apply with changes of ownership to a relative of the current owner.

It's a way of accomplishing the goal of the zoning change over time by attrition. "Grandfathered in" has it's + and - though too. Often, once a zoning change takes place, say when a town or city annexes land for expansion and "urban sprawl", and the land zoning changes from agricultural to i.e.: commercial..., the property value and taxes on the property will also drastically increase, to the point that the "ag" guy will no longer be able to afford to stay, and continue to float the tax burden from his farming operation revenues. So he'll end up selling off pieces of the farm, just to be able to continue and pay the taxes. He can no longer "expand" his operation to increase revenues... he'd never get the permits...zoning won't allow "expansion" outside of the current zoning restrictions... only "continuation as is" with what was there when the zoning changed. Eventually, all the hassle of trying to farm through all the traffic and development, and the complaints of neighbors just isn't worth it anymore, so he sells out. Yes, at that point, he's got some money in his pocket.... but he had to give up the "family farm dream"... Grandpa's farm... often a "fourth or fifth generation century farm" even, and if he's got enough years left in him, he has to leave that history behind, and start over again, farther out away from the city.

That's just the way it is. When my Mom was a little girl (1930's), her Dad was a minister. They lived in a small town, on a small town lot. But they had a little barn in the backyard, and they had a milk cow and about 30 chickens, for eggs and meat, and they had a pretty large garden, onto which they put their manure. Not many "towns" ordinances will allow that anymore. There's reasons for that. I live nearby to Rochester, MN, home of the Mayo Clinic. Even the Mayo's had a farm "in town" with cattle, and sheep, and horses... they were quite proud of them, and the Mayo Clinic is proud to display that image of the Mayo brothers. But Mayo Clinic is the biggest driver of growth in Rochester today, and that growth has drastically changed the "agricultural landscape" that Rochester and the surrounding communities used to be. The area is very hostile to agriculture, and ESPECIALLY animal agriculture, anywhere near to the city. They see our farms as "vacant land", and us farmers that operate it as "peasant tenants" that are just taking care of the land for them until they have need of it.

How does urban sprawl happen? A BIG contributor is when those who don't make their living off of the land, want to have their little piece of heaven in the country (can't blame anybody for wanting that!).............. but that then means you will have a non-ag residence in the ag protection district. Housing developments that consume 2-5-10 acres per household, typically in what was an ag protection district. That's an awful lot of land just for a house. Urban sprawl. Expensive "life savings" (your words) homes built there, and now they fear the "agriculture" next door might negatively impact it's value (and they're right... IT MAY!!!). They don't want to be smelling manure, hear cattle bawling, have dust, or hear tractors and combines and trucks running at all hours of the day and night, they don't even want to be able to hear a windmill turning a half mile away. They think that when they bought their place, that meant that they then "owned" the view across their neighbors land too, and because of that, they insist on dictating what their neighbor can and can't do with their land, because it'll "impact their view", or "impact the peaceful serenity" that they moved out into the country to find. Once these non-ag residences outnumber the actual farmers that live and make their living in the township, they then control the township, and overrule the "ag voice".

Sense a little hostility? You're right. The problem is, nobody thinks that THEY'RE the one that will cause these problems, until they ARE. THAT'S why we now have zoning ordinances............ and THAT'S why variances to those ordinances should not be granted easily.
 

simme

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This whole conversation makes me sad. That we have got to the point that we tell property owners what they can and can't do with their property. Back in the old days, Marshall Matt Dillion probably did not get many complaints because a neighbor had a cow or pig. If he did, I think I know how he would have dealt with it. Probably Sherriff Andy Taylor would have been the same. Now people want to control their neighbors. Just makes me sad.
 

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