Horton Feedlot, on East County Road 70 northeast of Wellington, has been feeding cattle on its land since 1977. Neighbors of the feedlot, the Dan Roth family, have lived across the road from the cattle operation since 1989, two years before their son, Clayton was born in 1991. While Clayton Roth respects the Hortons and says “they are good people,” he has a bone to pick. He says the feedlot is generating too much dust.
According to Roth, in 1977 when the feedlot was established, the Hortons obtained a “use by special review” (USR) permit in which they agreed to refrain from any activity that would cause unsanitary conditions. At the time they were feeding 2,500 cattle on 320 acres but had been granted permission to increase their numbers to 9,500. Over time, the feedlot has grown, leading to the ever-increasing and inevitable clash of a commercial agricultural endeavor with the lifestyle, wishes and sometimes the health of residential landowners.
Roth asserts that Horton’s cattle raise dust and attract flies, conditions he says are unsanitary, unhealthy and cause Horton to be out of compliance with the use by special review permit they agreed to abide by. He believes that building a sprinkler system would alleviate the dust problem. Horton Feedlot owner Travis Horton says that’s not feasible.
Roth has taken an active role in confronting the dust problem since 2012. He has complained to Larimer County, written to the Wellington Weekly and in late September he and several neighbors will meet with Commissioner Lew Gaiter to discuss the problem.
In response to Roth’s complaint, Chad Gray, Building and Code Compliance Coordinator for Larimer County, visited the area, found no evidence of dust while he was there, and reported to Roth that his supervisor, Candace Phippen and planner Karin Madson had met with Board of County Commissioners regarding his complaint and concluded that there was no code violation. Gray shared the code compliance file with Roth and explained that he had “every right to file a civil lawsuit against the feedlot.” He also pointed out that the county commissioners had noted that, “the feed yard was there prior to you folks moving there.”
Travis Horton was surprised to learn that Roth had filed a complaint. “I haven’t heard from him since last March when he called to see if I’d like to buy a product to get rid of flies,” Horton said. He says the families have been friendly over the years and that he has welcomed the Roths to drive on their land and hunt geese and coyotes there. At one point the Hortons sold the Roths 10 acres of land.
While Horton said that Clayton’s father, Dan, had never complained to him about dust, Clayton said his father has complained over time with no visible result.
Since 2013, Horton has worked to alleviate the dust problem by reducing his pen space by 70 percent during the summer months, confining the cattle to a smaller area. He explained that North Poudre water cannot be used for cattle. When there is excess effluent (runoff from rain), he has used the fluid to dampen dust on the roads but there has never been enough to dampen the pens. “We’re always wishing for rain,” Horton said.
The worst time is in the early evening when the cattle spend a couple of hours bucking and playing, according to Horton. “They quiet down at night. The seven people who live on the feedlot property do not complain about dust.”
The problem is at its worst from May to September according to Roth. The rest of the year, when the weather is cooler, it’s not an issue. “All I’m asking is that the Hortons abide by their USR,” Clayton said.
Larimer County and Travis Horton both say the feedlot is in compliance.