Agistment and Non-Payment of Agistment Fees – Can you Claim a Lien over Cattle?

Murdoch Lawyers

Type: Article
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

Avoid costly legal disputes by having advice and a written agistment agreement.

This article by Murdoch Lawyers looks in the issue of non-payment of agistment fees. They provide case examples to help answer their proposed question.

They begin by noting that a lien is: “in a practical sense, allows a party entitled to the lien to lawfully retain the property the subject of the lien (in this case, cattle) until such time as all money properly owing in respect to the property has been paid by the owner. In effect, a lien secures payment.”

The article explains the Queensland Court of Appeal case of Fearnley v Finlay [2014]  whereby there was a dispute for the agistment of cattle pursuant to an oral contract.

In summary, Fearnley argued.

  1. Agistment of cattle on an agister’s land, even by way of bailment, does not constitute “goods deposited with the storer for storage” under the Act in that:
    • Cattle are not goods within the meaning of that term in the Act (as noted above, the Court rejected this submission);
    • Delivery of cattle and agistment do not amount to goods being “deposited with” a storer; and
    • Delivery of cattle and agistment do not amount to goods being deposited with a storer “for storage”.
  2. The purpose of the Actin the context of its history, did not extend to the law relating to the agistment of cattle.

And, Finlay argued:

  1. As a matter of ordinary meaning:
    • Cattle would fall within the meaning of goods, as defined in the Act;
    • Delivery of cattle to an agister under a contract of bailment constitutes “goods deposited” under the Act; and
    • The primary purpose of an agistment contract was for storage and therefore the goods were deposited “for storage”.
  2. The purpose of the Act was to create a lien for a storer’s (or agister’s) lawful charges for the storage and preservation and other expenses in relation to the goods (cattle).

The case proves how important it is to obtain proper legal advice before entering an agistment agreement.

2014 - Murdoch Lawyers
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