Cattle Guards – How to choose

Benefits of Cattle Guards

The benefits of having a cattle guard on your property drastically outweighed the one-time burden of installation, but how do you choose what design would be best for your operation? It commonly boils down to choosing between the style of the top pipe:  round or flat.

  

Round pipe cattle guards

Physical Barrier Characteristics:

The most aggressive of the typical steel cattle guards are made with round top pipe and provide a substantial physical livestock barrier to your flat-hoofed cattle. Its curved surface provides the least stable footing possible so your cattle can’t find a balanced or sturdy place to put their weight. The hoof will rock forward or backward and give the most uncomfortable footing possible that’s almost impossible to balance on.

Even if one of your animals does attempt to try a step on a top rail, the experience of the unsettling instability will make them turn the other way and they won’t bother to test it again. The inability to find stable footing on a round-pipe is the most effective physical deterrent besides a gate and is made possible with a cattle guard.

Visual deterrent:

Both round and flat pipe cattle guards provide a visual deterrent in addition to their physical barrier. They are traditionally mounted on concrete footings like a bridge which creates an open vaulted area underneath.  The drop under the top rails provides a visual cue of depth that in itself, can prevent cattle from attempting to cross.

There have been studies done with visual illusions painted on flat asphalt that resulted in cattle turning away even though the surface was perfectly flat. Researchers painted the illusion of pipes and a corresponding shadow to create the illusion of depth. When the cattle were exposed to the artwork, they assumed it was an unstable and elevated and did not attempt to cross.

This optical trick worked for a limited amount of time but eventually did break down after a few days as one of the cattle (the bravest apparently) did place a hoof on it and eventually crossed. The others soon followed and the illusion barrier on it’s own, was defeated.

Boxes for cattle guards:

Barn World offers round pipe cattle guards that have the option of being permanently boxed, an option for laying directly on the ground, or with a removable box for cleaning underneath.

Permanent box 

A steel skirt welded all the way around the exterior to allow it to be placed directly on the ground without a foundation forms a permanent box round the guard. It does not bear any weight and is only there to prevent dirt from creeping underneath. The design is so it may be simply laid on the ground with a dirt ramp up on either side for vehicle crossings. It’s very popular for low traffic areas and for use in construction sites as wash-outs and rumble strips. It can be used to clean construction equipment before going out on a public roadway.

Removable box

This box style allows for the ‘Texas Gate’ to be lifted out of place to clean out any debris that was built up over time without disturbing the surrounding area. This feature is nice for a complete cleaning if you have the equipment to lift the guard.

The round pipe design is available in an economic private-use or the HS20, 16 ton per axle, public highway rating used in roadway projects.

Flat Pipe Cattle Guards

The flat pipe provides the benefit of allowing high-speed traffic to cross more smoothly than a round pipe design. It is also effective as a livestock barrier but the pipe is technically flat on top with a large space between each rail. This design is not quite as aggressive at deterring hoofed animals as there is a small flat area but is less rough on crossing vehicles.

flat pipe cattle guard with concrete foundations

flat pipe cattle guard with concrete foundations

These cattle grids are also available to ship with precast concrete cattle guard foundations that can be lowered directly into the ground without the need for pouring concrete on site. The foundations come with mounting bolts already poured to match up with the cattle grid and can be installed directly in the field. The precast foundations are especially handy in remote areas where concrete is not available.

Flat top pipe guards are available in a wide variety of load ratings for all types of different projects:

Flat Top Pipe Load Rating Availability

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

Providing convenience for vehicles crossing fence lines while securing your large animals is accomplished with the simple, tried and tested traditional cattle guard. You don’t always need to open a close a gate!

For more information or for help with planning your cattle guard project, contact barn world.com at Sales@BarnWorld.com or (720) 238-2190 today and click the following link to check out our Livestock Youtube Channel!

Cattle Guard types and advantages

Livestock cattle guards have been in use for decades and with good reason:  They allow vehicles to conveniently cross a fence-line without the allowing a herd to wander off. Cattle guards provide effortless access to your pastures and provide the peace of mind that your animals remain safely contained, no matter who’s accessing the land.

Livestock Gates are inconvenient and less secure than cattle guards

The inconvenience of opening and closing a gate cannot be overstated.  Have you ever dreaded approaching a closed gate in a downpour or subzero temperatures knowing that you have to stop, get out and open the gate, get back in and drive through only to do it all over again to close the gate behind you?  It’s especially annoying when you’re climbing down from a large piece of equipment or when your cows are present and curious to see what the open gate is all about when you’re driving through.  These nerve-racking moments are over as soon as your cattle guard is installed.  Simply pass over the cattle guard knowing that your livestock cannot follow and carry-on with your day.

It’s not just you that’s inconvenienced with a gate and third-parties are not as diligent as owners when it comes to making sure it gets closed behind them.  Every someone else needs access through your fence line, there is a risk of your cattle escaping. All it takes is for one person to forget to close or not properly secure a latch and your livestock could easily slip out. This is especially important in remote areas where an open gate can go unnoticed for an extended period of time. Typically, it’s someone not affiliated with your operation that leaves it open and with access granted to third parties such as oil and gas companies, cell phone tower operators or any other organization that needs access to your land, it is difficult to ensure the gate will always be properly closed in a timely manner.

With the installation of a cattle guard, you can be sure that anyone can drive through your property and your animals will not be wandering off.  This peace of mind (especially at night when you’re trying to fall asleep!) is a real lifesaver and you can rest assured that your neighbor or ranch-hand has not allowed your investment to roam freely into the dangers of an unconfined area.

Types of cattle guards

Although all may be considered for your operation, each type of design has it’s own advantages.  Take a look at the round and flat top-pipe steel construction as well as the concrete design when planning your installation.

ROUND TOP-PIPE CATTLE GUARDS

The traditional design uses a round top-pipe to provide a strong, physical livestock barrier. It’s the most effective because a flat hoof is very difficult to balance on the rounded surface of the pipe. The combination of a large amount of weight balanced on a very small, unstable area creates a very strong negative feedback to the animal trying to cross. This physical deterrent is very effective even when tested by your most daring and curious cows.

The physical discomfort and resulting avoidance reaction is made more pronounced when coupled with the visual barrier of looking through the gaps of the top pipes. Oftentimes just the confusion created by the visual cues of the perceived varying depth is enough to dissuade even walking across.  In fact, some studies have shown that paint schemes on flat pavement designed to create the illusion of varying depths is often enough to prevent walking on, at least temporarily. The animals perceive that there is uneven ground and won’t bother investigating further.

Round top-pipe cattle guards provide the most effective physical barrier needed to keep livestock contained and allow vehicles to cross without the inconvenience or risk of an open gate.

FLAT TOP-PIPE CATTLE GUARDS

To provide a smoother crossing for automobiles, especially at higher speeds, a flat top-pipe cattle guard may be what you’re looking for.  These cattle guards are typically for use in high traffic and high-speed vehicle crossings.  The top pipe is flat and narrow so that it provides both the physical and visual barriers necessary for hoofed animals.  Its physical deterrent is not as aggressive as the round pipe, but is still effective and provides a much smoother crossing for all vehicle types.

These cattle guards are also available in higher load-carrying capacity ratings than the round pipe and are typically seen as more aesthetically pleasing for designers and homeowners.

CONCRETE CATTLE GUARD FORMS

Another great option to the traditional steel guard is the use of concrete forms.  These forms allow you to pour your own and make as many as you wish.  Concrete cattle guards are used almost exclusively in rural areas that don’t see the high traffic areas of steel guards, but they do have a lot of advantages that steel can’t compete with.

Benefits of concrete cattle guard forms

One of the best features of using forms is that you can make as many of them as you like. With detailed instructions, you can create a 16 ton per axle (HS20- rated) crossing for your heaviest vehicles!  Your only cost is that of the concrete and the plastic forms themselves. If you have the ability to mix your own concrete, this can be an extremely economical option.

Shipping costs are also substantially less than that of one-piece steel products. The forms usually ship as an over-sized package and aren’t required to go on a flatbed truck via the common carriers. The shipping cost savings can be substantial and are often an important consideration for the overall cost of your project.

One word of caution with any concrete product exposed to the elements:  Keep an eye out for cracking or crumbling. Concrete doesn’t always do well with high velocity impact and chipping or cracking can occur.  Once started, a small chip can turn into a larger area of decay and cracks can allow water to penetrate the concrete which can then freeze and crack from within. A s long as you keep an eye out for external damage and patch it when necessary, concrete will last a very long time.

Whichever route you choose, a cattle guard can provide years of rugged use and the convenience and security of never having to manage the opening and closing of a gate.  It also provides the peace of mind knowing that your animals are held securely in their pasture!  For more information or help with your installation, check out www.BarnWorld.com or give them a call at (720) 238-2190 and they’ll be happy to help.