Cattle Guard Overview

Cattle Guard Overview from Barn World

Choosing a cattle guard for your project doesn’t have to be overwhelming and we’re here to help.  Here is a quick review of the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between cattle guard offerings. There are two common types of cattle guards:  Boxed and Flat.  Each has its’ own installation requirements as detailed in our installation post.

Boxed-style cattle guards are built to lay on flat ground.  A steel frame is welded all the way around the perimeter to prevent dirt and debris from migrating their way underneath.  It is not to support the guard but is there just to keep the dirt out.

The boxed cattle guard will rest directly on its C-channel beams.  To help with drainage, a gravel underlayment is recommended. These types of cattle guards are very popular with semi-temporary installations such as construction sites or limited access areas.  They are also used as wheel wash-outs for trucks entering public roadways. They are designed to mount to a foundation over a vault and are used in permanent installations and public roadways.

Please read the post on installing flat cattle guards or visit our informational website for more information on the footing and foundation requirements. Flat cattle guards will rest entirely on the footings and pour a concrete foundation.  The weight of the crossing traffic is transferred from the pipes to the structural beams, to the footings, and then to the ground.  It is important that each footing is supporting the length of the beams for proper weight transfer.

Common points: Both flat and boxed cattle guards have the same strong values.  The boxed merely has a steel skirt welded to it and rests on the ground rather than having permanent footings to rest on. Cattle guards are usually made with 4-1/2” OD pipe and will use 9 pieces to cross the beams or they may be built using 3-1/2” OD pipe and 11 total pieces.  The spacing between the pipes is nearly 4” on average and the total height from the top of the pipe to the bottom of the support beams is nearly 12”.

The cattle guards usually come in gray enamel, but other colors are available on request.  The most popular request is for safety yellow as it is sometimes required for government projects and construction sites. Flat cattle guards weigh approximately 100 lbs. / linear foot – so for example, a 10’ cattle guard will weigh about 1,000 pounds.  If the guard is boxed, a good rule of thumb is to add 10 pounds per foot.

If wings are added as an option, estimate 100 lbs for each wing, or 200 lbs total.

Using Cattle Guard with other Animals

Deer:   Cattle guards can be effective with other animals other than cattle. One of the most common requests is for deer.  Unfortunately, deer are very athletic animals and are fantastic jumpers.  An 8’ guard (in the direction of vehicle travel) will not stop or deter a deer from jumping it.  The best arrangement to keep deer out is to set two 8’ cattle guards side-by-side to create a barrier of 16’ in the direction of travel.  Cattle guards are easily bolted together.

Our experience has been that most deer will not venture over the guards that provide 16’ or more of ‘discouragement’. They are easily bolted together to provide extra distance in the direction of travel and a visual deterrent to jumping

Goats and horses: Although they are commonly used with horses, we do not recommend them for horses. They do provide the same effective barrier as with cattle, but because a horse hoof is more slender than a cow’s, they have the potential to slide between the 4” spacing of the top rails and become trapped.  As a ‘flight animal’, they will struggle to get out and can unintendedly break their own leg in the attempt.

A cattle guard will almost always deter a horse, but on the off chance it decides to try and cross, it can expose it’s fragile leg to breaking during the struggle to escape. We do not want to see anyone’s animal put down because they got stuck in a cattle guard and would instead recommend a gate.

Goats on the other hand are very sure-footed animals that can walk right over a cattle guard without thinking twice. Dogs are also pretty adept at crossing.

Taking Delivery of a Cattle Guard

Please remember these very large items are very heavy.  When they ship, they are usually on a boxed semi-truck or a flatbed trailer.  The trucks cannot unload them at the point of delivery.  It is therefore important for the customer to have equipment capable of unloading these large steel structures.

In some cases, it’s possible to drag the cattle guard out of the trailer, lower one end to the ground then the other.  The unloading equipment does not necessarily have to be able to lift the entire guard all at once.  It’s safer to lower one end to the ground so the rig does not come unstable and endanger anyone on the ground.

We hope this brief overview is helpful and if you have any questions at all, please let us know.

For more information on cattle guards, please call (720) 238-2190, email or visit today!


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