Cattle Guards, the ultimate livestock gate!

Cattle Guards are the ultimate invisible livestock gate

By Barnworld Livestock – sales@barnworld.com

Cattle guards offer ease of access to your livestock pastures, farm and ranches while keeping your animals safe from wandering.  The simple design allows vehicles to pass through a fence line holding most ranch animals without having to stop and open, then close a gate.  If you have through traffic or other people working on your farm, you never have to worry about an open gate in the middle of the night.

Cattle Guard differences

Top Pipe Options:  Barn World offers each of the cattle guard types below with either round pipe or flat pipe on top.  The top pipe runs perpendicular to the direction of vehicular traffic and rests directly on the c-channel or i-beams underneath.  The weight of the vehicle is transferred from the pipe, to the beams and then to the ground.

The flat piping is ideal for areas of high speed traffic such as public roadways and other crossings with a lot of traffic moving at a faster clip.  The finish allows for a more smooth transition of the barrier with the least amount of ride disruption to the passengers and vehicle.  They can commonly be seen in use by state & federal highway projects.

Round Pipe cattle guards are of the same design as the flat pipe and come in 3-1/2 or 4-1/2 diameters.  The round pipe causes a bit more vibration on passing vehicles,  but is seen as a more effective deterrent to livestock.   The curvature of the pipe creates less of a balancing surface for hoofed animals creating more discomfort on the foot and leg if stepped on.  It is very difficult for hoofed animals (goats excepted) to get a secure footing feeling while balancing all of their weight on such a small, rounded surface.

The curved pipe also creates an optical barrier for livestock.  The curvature of the round pipe creates shadows that offer an optical barrier for the animals.  A study was done comparing the effectiveness of traditional round pipe cattle guards to white lines of roughly the same width painted on a black road surface to create the illusion of depth.  The painted lines were found initially to be surprisingly more effective than first thought. When cattle were introduced to the markings, they we not interested in testing the barrier, but when they had had some time to inspect the painted surface, the eventually were able to overcome their initially hesitation and cross without effort.  Once they were able to determine the road was indeed flat, they did in fact cross easily.  The optical illusion of a barrier did deter them for a time, but when incentivized to cross it, they did.  The researchers found that they still preferred to go around the markings, but didn’t have a problem crossing once the ‘jig was up’.

The traditional round –piped cattle guard, couples the optical deterrent with the physical to provide the most effective obstruction.  Livestock that are motivate to attempt a crossing and are brave enough to place a hoof on the guard quickly discover that the footing is unbearably unstable and will usually withdraw their hoof.   After that initial uncomfortable encounter with the steel round pipe, they will typically avoid it at all costs.

We have had reports of some aggressive or spooked bulls attempt to jump over the obstacle.  This is usually done in times of panic and some of the larger more athletic bulls can jump six feet or more on occasion.  For these more muscular and nimble ‘jumpers’ and eight foot (in the direction of travel) cattle guard has proved to be more than enough to show the animal that it’s a barrier not to be contemplated.

Of special note, even round topped guards do not work with all animals.  Smaller hoofed farm and ranch livestock such as goats and some sheep can be very nimble and often have no trouble tip-toeing through.  Animals with soft pads on their feet are able to balance on the round piping and although not a comfortable footing, they are able to walk across if they desire.

Flat rails and Round Rails

Round Rail Cattle Guard

Flat Top Rail Cattle Guard

Vaulted vs Boxed Cattle Guards

A second option available in the selection of cattle guards is the boxed vs. the traditional vaulted that requires a footing to rest on.

The boxed cattle guard

Boxed guards have a steel skirt surrounding it.  The skirt may be either welded into place or be removable.  The integral box is a steel skirt welded directly on that creates a barrier for dirt to creep underneath.  With this type of box, installation may be made directly on the ground without the need of footings or digging.  To clean out any debris that may have built up over time, it is simply drug out of place and then slid right back in.   At near 12 inches tall, dirt ramps are built up on either side to allow vehicles to cross over.

This type of installation is considered less permanent and is very popular in low traffic areas and construction sites needing an equipment washout area or a dirt rumble to clean vehicles before they enter a pubic roadway.  They are also more ‘portable’ and may be move from job site to job site if necessary.

The traditional cattle guard installation is done with a concrete foundation (although other materials are also used; ie railroad ties) and a ‘vault’ area is dug underneath to collect debris.  Typically, a rectangular concrete foundation is poured to keep the dirt walls from falling in and to provide support to the beams that run in the direction of traffic.  Although not considered a difficult endeavor, an experienced contractor who is familiar with the local soil conditions and frost / freeze levels is highly recommended.  If not properly supported, changes to the soil during freezing, water saturation or runoff may affect the structural integrity of the crossing and the cattle guard itself.

ATV Cattle Guards

There is also a cattle guard specifically designed for ATV use in crossing fence-lines.  We’ve custom built these for golf carts passage as well.  Simply cut whole in your fence-line and drop this guard into place.  That’s all that’s needed!!

Drive-over Gates

Another alternative to traditional cattle guards.  These gates pivot and allow the it to lay flat for a vehicle to safely cross over and then return to their upright position automatically.  This type of gate has been successfully used in busy feed lots with lots of tractor and truck traffic and provides yet another secure means of keeping livestock in place while allowing access to busy areas.

Cattle Guard Load Ratings

The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials or AASHTO, supplies maximum load ratings necessary for highway bridges and all crossings that support traffic.  The common load design specifications are shown in the table below:

  • H-15 (12 tons per axle)
  • H-20 (16 tons per axle)
  • U-54 (25 tons per axle)
  • U-80 (30 tons per axle)

These ratings are used by engineers who issue certificates of design reports and certify builders to ensure the product meets the load requirements for the ratings used above.  To achieve the designation, manufacturers must use specific welding techniques, materials and designs before the guard can be certified and used in a public roadway.  For most highway crossings, the 16 ton per axle or H-20 rating is used.

Non-rated cattle guards do not come with an engineer’s certification and are therefore more economical than the rated.  They are used on private property and in some cases made from the same materials and design specifications as the rated.  All cattle guards sold by Barn World are built to withstand fully loaded semi-trucks and large farm equipment.  They are very popular with traditional farm and ranch operations.

Note that we do not offer concrete cattle guards.  Although they may be initially cheaper than steel guards, our experience has been that they do not offer the longevity of steel and are subject to quickly cracking and chipping when exposed to the elements.  Once it starts, the life of the crossing quickly diminishes and the entire structure will need to be replaced.  A steel barrier offers the most durability and length of life for the user.

Considered the most effective means for controlling and containing livestock on a farm and ranch while offering the ultimate ease of access for all types of vehicles, steel cattle guards offer peace of mind and security no matter who needs to pass through a fence line.

For more information on our full line of farm and ranch supplies, or for any help with your livestock supplies, contact Barn World at 720.238.2190.

 

 

 

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