Cattle Guard Selection and Installation

cattle guard resting on a concrete foundation

A cattle guard can provide years of trouble-free access to your pastures. The installation process doesn’t have to be complicated and the rewards of being able to pass through your fence lines without stopping immeasurable.

Once in place, your animals will be secure and you’ll never have to stop to open a gate again! It also provides piece-of-mind when you have other people accessing your property. You’ll no longer worry that someone else has left a gate open and all your cattle gone.

Below are some of the basic considerations for the selection and installation of this ubiquitous livestock barrier.

Selecting a cattle guard

The first step to the freedom from gates is the selection of the cattle guard style that matches the use of your property. The largest distinction is the choice between flat top rail and round top rail designs. Each has its own advantages for livestock control and vehicle comfort.


Flat top rail cattle guards

cattle grid with flat top rails

This design is typically used in high-speed traffic areas. They provide a smoother ride for crossing vehicles than their round top rail counterparts. The flat rail guards are also available in a wider range of load-carrying capacities. Private driveway use uses a 12 tons per axle capacity but ratings go all the way up to 30 tons per axle!

Cattle Guard Load Ratings

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

The extra heavy duty cattle guards are used for off-highway construction equipment use. The Department of Transportation requires the 16 ton per axle rating for public roadway projects. Typical driveway installations use the 12 tons per axle rating for fully loaded semi’s and farm and ranch equipment.


Round top rail cattle guards

This design is more economical than the flat rail and is very popular throughout the US. They are available in the highway-rated 16 ton per axle load-carrying rating and also as an estimated 12 ton per axle private-use guard. They’re very popular for use in driveways and on private property.

The round rails are a more aggressive livestock deterrent than the flat rails. A flat hoofed has more difficult time balancing on the curved edge of round rails and most cattle won’t put any weight on their hoof even if they do dare to approach the crossing.

There is also a variation of this style that includes a steel skirt welded to the perimeter. This allows it to be lay directly on the ground and helps prevent dirt from creeping in underneath. It’s very popular for low-traffic areas where digging a vault is warranted.


Cattle Guard Foundations

Like any major structural support system, the foundation is critical for a proper and long-lasting installation. The stability needs to be guaranteed as heavy crossing loads can change direction and momentum consistently. This not only puts a large vertical load on the installation but can also create side loads that require extra lateral stability.

precast foundations

These flat top rail cattle guards are available with precast concrete footings. They may be set directly in the ground and allow the steel grids to be bolted directly to the concrete below. This is a popular option as cement does not need to be brought to the site and poured. The precast are simply unloaded from the delivery vehicle and set in the ground.

Pouring a concrete footer is not hard but it is a bit more labor-intensive than having a precast foundation delivered. The idea is to provide a stable footprint for the cattle guard to transfer weight and motion to the ground. The wider footprint spreads the weight to prevent the barrier from sinking or moving once installed.

Below is a generic diagram for reference. Please be sure to enlist in local contractor who is familiar with the site conditions as described below.


Cattle Guard Foundation Diagram

cattle guard foundation diagram



Site Considerations

As stated above, a local contractor should be consulted to ensure the foundation meets the requirements of the site. Many factors, such as drainage, freezing levels and even local building codes can be important considerations for a secure installation. If the weight of the guard and the crossing vehicles is not properly distributed and secured, the foundation and thus the crossing be compromised.


Cattle guard wings

A fence line creates a vertical barrier to prevent livestock from wandering off. This barrier needs to be converted to the horizontal roadway and create a seamless transition. If it fence line terminates at a post located in the middle of the grid, your cattle can simply step around the post and avoid the cattle guard altogether.

cattle grid wing installed

The wings attach to the vertical fence line and spread it to the horizontal barrier of the cattle guard in the road. This connection prevents the “step-around” and keeps your livestock behind the structure.

Benefits of a Cattle Guard

A proper cattle guard installation will last for years and years. The convenience it provides combined with the security for your animals will make you wonder why you haven’t done before.

If you have any questions or if we can help plan your project, please let us know and will be happy to help.






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