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Agistment originally referred specifically to the proceeds of pasturage in the king's forests. To agist is, in English law, to take cattle to graze, in exchange for payment (derived from the Old English giste, gite, a "lying place").[1]


Agistment originally referred specifically to the proceeds of pasturage in the king's forests in England, but now means either:[2]

  1. the contract for taking in and feeding horses or cattle on pasture land, for the consideration of a periodic payment of money;
  2. the profit derived from such pasturing.

Agistment involves a contract of bailment, and the bailee must take reasonable care of the animals entrusted to him; he is responsible for damages and injury which result from ordinary casualties, if it be proved that such might have been prevented by the exercise of great care. There is no lien on the cattle for the price of the agistment unless by express agreement. Under the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1883, agisted cattle cannot be distrained on for rent if there be other sufficient distress to be found, and if such other distress be not found, and the cattle be distrained, the owner may redeem them on paying the price of their agistment. The tithe of agistment or "tithe of cattle and other produce of grass lands" was formally abolished by the Act of Union in 1707, on a motion submitted with a view to defeat that measure.[2]

Current usage[edit]

England (New Forest)[edit]

A dead cow in the New Forest. The sticker states "Agister Aware" because the agisters (not police) have the legal responsibility for commoners' animals in the forest.

In England, agisters were formerly the officers of the forest empowered to collect the agistment. They have been re-established in the New Forest to carry out the daily duties of administering the forest.[3]

Australia and New Zealand[edit]

In Australia, agistment is commonly used in drought, where livestock on a drought-affected property are agisted to a drought-free property elsewhere in the country. The livestock may travel to the alternate pasture by truck, or by travelling [stock route]. Agistment can also refer to, in Australia, as well as New Zealand, places owners can pay to keep their horse or horses such as farms, paddocks and studs that offer 'full agistment' where they can have their horse graze and be cared for, or ‘part agistment’ where grazing only is offered.

United States and Canada[edit]

In the United States and Canada, the term agister is used in raw milk herdshare agreements to refer to the person hired to provide agistment services for owners of the herd animals.[4] In the Western United States, agisters are landholders who offer pasturage services, or who seek to enforce agistment lien commitments.[a]


  1. ^ For example, in the State of Washington, agister is defined as "a farmer, ranchman, herder of cattle, livery and boarding stable keeper, veterinarian, or other person, to whom horses, mules, cattle, or sheep are entrusted for the purpose of feeding, herding, pasturing, training, caring for, or ranching" (Washington State Legislator 2016); as it is in Colorado (Colorado General Assembly 2005).
  1. ^ Wedgwood, Hensleigh (1855). "On False Etymologies". Transactions of the Philological Society (6): 69.
  2. ^ a b Chisholm 1911, p. 377.
  3. ^ For registered New Forest Ponies.
  4. ^ Welcome to EcoReality! 2011; Day Spring Farm; BC Herdshare Association 2016.