Install a Cattle Guard

Every long-lasting building requires a solid foundation and a cattle guard is no different. It carries heavy loads with shifting weighs across it and it’s extremely important that it’s installed correctly.

We strongly recommend that contractor familiar with the local site conditions be used for a proper installation. Typical site considerations include: frost levels, drainage, type of soil and even local building codes. All of these factors are important to take into account for a proper installation.


Generic Foundation Diagram

cattle guard foundation diagram

Excavation of the Vaulted Area

The vaulted, or dug-out area beneath the crossing is key to providing the often overlooked optical barrier that helps dissuade livestock from even touching the top rails. Allowing the animal a view of the bottom of the excavated area provides a conflicting depth perception contrast when compared to the top rail itself. This optical confusion can be an effective visual deterrent all on it’s own.

‘Fake’ Painted Guards

Some studies have been done where three dimensional looking grates were painted across a roadway. Cows were introduced to the fake barrier and most of them refused to cross. Of course when one did eventually work up the courage, the rest soon followed.

The vault is created by removing soil under the area where the top rails will be. We typically recommend at least 6″ be dug below the bottom support beams as shown in the diagram. With a 12″ overall height, a depth of 18″ from the top rail to the bottom of the vault will be presented to the livestock. You may go deeper if desired, the important issue is that the foundations themselves are properly supported.

The vault also helps remove debris from collecting between rails. If the vacant area beneath wasn’t there, dirt and debris would fill the area between the top rails and the barrier would lose it’s effectiveness.

To help with drainage, the bottom of the vault should include a means of removing water without disturbing the surrounding footings. Typically crushed gravel is used to create a french drain, but every site is unique.


Concrete footings are usually poured on site but we do also offer pre-cast concrete cattle guard foundations that can be shipped right with our flat rail cattle guards.

cattle guard on top of concrete foundations

The concrete is designed to fit pre-drilled holes in the guard so they can be bolted down upon arrival. Quick, easy and convenient, they’re quickly becoming a popular option for sites that don’t want to pour their own.


Surface Installation with a Boxed Cattle Guard

Boxed cattle guards are set directly on the ground and are designed for low traffic, remote and temporary installations. The box is a steel skirt welded to the perimeter to keep dirt from getting in underneath. Dirt is pushed up on either side of the guard to create a ramp for crossing vehicles.

Boxed Cattle Guard

a boxed cattle guard

This design is popular at remote areas like cell phone towers and oil wells. They’re also used at construction site entrances as rumble strips, washouts for cleaning equipment and keeping the entrance clear of mud.

Although they lay directly on the ground, site preparation and proper drainage is a must. A bed of crushed gravel can go a long way to removing excess water and keep if from eroding your cattle crossing.

Site Specific

Foundations are critical to keep your livestock barrier in place and working effectively. They secure the guard from moving and transfer the passing load to the ground. The above recommendations should be considered and a local contractor consulted for a long-lasting installation.

If you have any questions or would like help planning your project, please visit or contact us anytime and we’ll by happy to assist.


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