How to install a cattle guard

installing a cattle guard with wings

There are two common types of cattle guards and two different means of installing them.  The type of guard will determine the type of installation.

Boxed Cattle Guard Installation

cattle guard with a box for ground installation

The most basic installation is utilized when installing a boxed cattle guard.  These are designed to lay flat on the ground and do not require footings or a vault.  The box is welded directly to the cattle guard and is only used to keep the dirt from filling in underneath. The surface should be prepared to be as flat as possible to limit any tendency for the cattle grid to move from traffic crossing over it. They may also be temporarily anchored to the ground to help prevent sliding around.  Boxed cattle guards work best on solid soils and once in place, dirt is piled up on either side to form a ramp for vehicles to cross over.

Boxed cattle guards are most commonly used in semi-temporary installations such as construction sites, well drilling, mining, and truck wash-outs before entering a public roadway.  To remove any debris that may build up under the guard, it is typically dragged from its spot a short distance and then returned.

A boxed cattle guard has the same strength and durability as a flat cattle guard and may be moved from job site to job site.

Flat Cattle Guard Installation

cattle guard resting on concrete foundations

Flat top rail design requires footings and a vault to be installed properly.  A permanent installation requires a full concrete vault made up of 6″ walls around the perimeter.  These walls hold the dirt out of the space under the guard, while footers provide support to disperse the weight of the crossing vehicles.

Concrete footers are poured inside the vault and provide support for the beams to rest on.  Consult with your local contractor to determine your actual support needs based on local soil conditions, but generally, the footers should be 12 inches in width and 18 inches deep to support each beam of the cattle guard.   The footers must be positioned to support the cattle guard and can disperse the full weight of the crossing traffic.

The depth of the finished vault should be approximately one foot deep.  If it’s any deeper, animals may be injured if they attempt to cross and fall through the guard.  Each cattle guard installation is unique and should take into consideration the local soil composition and drainage issues.  The footers are not optional with a flat cattle guard installation and must rest on a solid foundation to support the beams of the cattle guard to ensure decades of use.

Most installations do not require any sort of active draining system but instead rely on crushed rock and porous soil in the bottom of the vault to create a French drain.  If the drainage in your area is particularly poor, you may install a PVC pipe to assist in removing any water that does not drain out of the bottom of the vault.

Flat cattle guards set properly on a concrete foundation may be placed over small streams or creeks of running water, much like a bridge.  A culvert can be placed below the level of the road and then the footers are poured under the beams of the cattle guard to embed the culvert.  A 6″ thick wall is then poured around the vault to keep the dirt back. When traffic crosses the cattle guard, the weight is transferred from the rails to the c-channel beams underneath and then onto the footers.

The flat cattle guard is the least expensive and the vault is fairly easy to construct.

For more information on cattle guards, please call (720) 238-2190 or visit Barn World online at  Barn World, more than just farm & ranch supplies, we have a large selection of livestock supplies and horse and rider supplies as well.


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