Cattle Guards and Livestock Management

Cattle Guards offer livestock containment and peace of mind

Owning and running a ranch is a full-time job. It’s a 24-hour labor of love to raise and care for many animals at a time. Moving around to feed and attend to your livestock requires access to pastures that must be able to contain and protect while allowing ease of access for equipment and vehicles. A cattle guard is the perfect solution and they come in many different shapes and sizes to allow for most any type of use.

cattle guard installed in a roadway with wings

We do not recommend a cattle guard be used for all types of animals.

Horses and Small Hoofed Animals:

For some animals, these barriers just don’t work and can sometimes put them in harm’s way. Goats and other small, sure-footed creatures, can trot right across the top of the rails. Some larger animals like horses have slender hoofs that can present danger with possible dire consequences.

It is possible that some horses can slide their hoof between the top rails and into the vaulted area beneath. This can expose the most delicate and fragile part of the leg to the steel rails on each side. Once in the guard, it is extremely, if not impossible for them to get out. They will most likely try, become full of panic, and can break their leg in the struggle.

We strongly recommend only using a gate to contain horses.

Cattle Guards and Deer
Deer are agile creatures with small hoofs and incredible athleticism. The installation requires a modification to be an effective deterrent.

Their ability to effortlessly jump large distances means that distance needs to be increased to be effective.  We typically install at least a 12-foot barrier, with 16 feet being an ideal distance to discourage them from jumping across. To get that kind of depth, two guards are bolted together, side-by-side to double the width of the ‘Texas Gate’. Seeing the larger distance will persuade them to find another direction to travel.

Cattle Guards and Non-hoofed Animals

The working mechanism of the grid is the curved surface of the top rails.  The hoof is flat on the bottom and when placed on a curved surface, it acts like a teeter-totter and doesn’t allow the animal to balance. This uncomfortable and physically challenging surface means they can’t put any weight on their leg. That, along with the limited depth perception in cows, provides a strong and seemingly impossible barrier to hoofed animals.

Those with padded feet, however, can balance on the rounded pipe as their point of contact is flexible. The ability to stand on a small curved surface allows them to balance and walk on the very tops of the rails

This means the guards are not very effective in keeping out dogs, cats, coyotes, and other ‘soft-footed’ four-legged friends. They’re able to walk across and only a gate would be able to stop them.

yellow metal gate

Types of Cattle Guards

Barn World offers several types of cattle guards for both private and public use.

Private use cattle guards are perfect for farm and ranch use and for access areas where the total axle weight is up to 10 tons. Semi-trailers, tractors, and large farming equipment are perfect for this type of guard.

They’re more economical than the flat top guards and provide a more aggressive livestock deterrent.

Round Top Rails

cattle guard with round top rails

The round rail is very popular across the US and especially for private land use. It’s more economical and can be easy to install. Concrete foundations are always recommended as is a flat but well-drained site. They’re available with a few different options depending on the type of installation desired.

These include the skirted grid for installation directly on the ground (Boxed) as well as wings and even a removable box design.

Boxed style cattle guards

Not all installations require a foundation for the grid to rest on. This skirted style can be set directly on the ground and the welded on perimeter box keeps dirt from coming in below the top rails. Most private users will dig a hole with a gravel base for drainage so the 12″ tall guard is about 2″ above the road surface.

For more stability, especially if the site is not perfectly flat, burying a couple of railroad ties to bolt to can help reduce any walking and offer the security of being ‘tied to the ground”.

A gravel base is recommended for proper drainage so the steel skirt welded to the outside won’t’ hold water and compromise the surrounding soil.

In many cases, the boxed design is used for construction site equipment wheel washes or rumble stripes to remove dirt before re-entering a roadway. They can also be picked up and moved to the next job to guard against tracking unwanted debris.

The Boxed Cattle Guard

boxed cattle guard with a steel skirt welded to the perimeter
All of our cattle guards can withstand the weight of full tractor-trailer loads and are typically made with 3 1/2″ or 4 1/2″ outside diameter pipe. Depending on the size used, they are made with either 9 rails of 4 1/2″ or 11 rails of 3 1/2″ outside diameter pipe and are approximately 12-1/2″ tall. There is no difference in strength between the boxed cattle guard and the flat styles of cattle guards.


Each completed grid weighs near 110 pounds per foot (a 10′ cattle guard weighs about 1,100 Lbs.). Add approximately 8 pounds per foot for the addition of a box and near another 200 pounds in the total weight for a pair of wings. To use for deer, you may need to place two cattle guards in tandem so you have 16 feet of protection. Cattle guards are easily bolted together and the extra depth can help deter deer from crossing or jumping.

Important Delivery Notes:

  1. You must have equipment available to unload the cattle guards from the delivery vehicle when it arrives. The delivery truck will require you to unload the cattle guard with a loader or forklift or some other means upon delivery.
  2. Private use cattle guards are NOT built to exact dimensions and sizes may vary slightly.  Adding the removable box option will add about 7″ to the total length and width of the cattle guard. For example, a 12-foot cattle guard will be about 12′-7″.

ATV Cattle Guard

We also carry a unique cattle guard design for ATV use. It’s built to be set directly on the ground in your fence line. You may simply cut your fence, set the guard in place, and reattach your fence to the size of it to provide easy access to your all-terrain vehicles. atv cattle guard

For more information on cattle guards, installation, or for help with any of your livestock supply needs, please visit today or call (720) 238-2190 and we’ll be happy to help.

Remember, Barn World is y our home for everything from saddle pads, hay feeders, grain bins, mineral feeders, and everything to do with livestock.  We even carry livestock scales!


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