Cattle Guards instead of Gates

The cattle guard has been the staple of livestock control on the farm and ranch for decades. Farm gates are the workhorse of animal containment, but the inconvenience for the user created the desire for something better; something that didn’t require extra effort to pass through was needed. A system that allowed for effortless and frequent access through fence lines was needed.

Secure containment without the need to close a gate is paramount in remote and high-traffic areas. Some people may have been granted access to your land who are not related to the ranch itself. These users of the entry are typically not as responsible for latching gates behind them every time they access the area as you are.

red farm gate with locking chain

The trouble with using farm gates

The traditional metal swing-gate did a fine job of keeping livestock contained in pastures but required some discipline from those using them. The inconvenience of stopping equipment, and climbing down to open a gate while fending off any curious livestock was more than just a pain in the neck to users.

Users would also need to drive through the gate while keeping animals at bay, only to stop again to ward them off and close the gate behind them. They also needed to make sure it was securely latched before leaving.

When making several trips a day through a fenceline, or relying on strangers that access the property to close them, was inconvenient. Livestock containment is not guaranteed. The installation and use of a cattle guard provide ease of use, and peace of mind and is a huge time saver!

Gates are inconvenient are are only as secure as those using them – Cattle guards are FOOLPROOF

Gates require that everyone who uses them be responsible enough to make sure they are secured after being closed. A lot of pastures are in remote areas and need to be accessed by non-ranchers. Land access may be granted to companies that operate cell phone towers, oil wells, or other facilities. These areas require less than frequent maintenance by non-farm-related personnel. The sporadic traffic by those not familiar with livestock, or maybe just more concerned with convenience than keeping animals contained, don’t always do the best job of keeping gates closed. Leaving them open after they enter a pasture because ‘there are no cattle around’, only leads to animals sneaking out. With a cattle guard, there’s no more searching and rounding up escaped animals because someone left a gate open!

No more searching and rounding up escaped animals because someone left a gate open when using Cattle Guards!

Cattle Guards

The cattle guard design was born out of convenience and animal security. Once it was discovered that flat-hoofed livestock needed flat surfaces for secure footing, a design was born. The convenience of not opening and closing gates was here to stay!

cattle guard with round top rails  truck crossing a cattle guard

Cattle Guards – Effective Livestock Barriers

To effectively keep cattle in the pasture where they belong without the use of a gate, a strong deterrent needs to be present. The standard cattle guard relies on two.

The optical deterrent

The first line of defense is the creation of a visible barrier. Cattle guards with round top rails create shadows and a perception of depth that cows pick up on as treacherous. Some studies show when presented with highly contrasting lines painted horizontally across a roadway, some cattle will be spooked enough not to cross. The optical barrier created by the shadows of the rounded rails, when coupled with the actual physical depth of the vaulted area beneath it, creates a strong disincentive for further exploration and will usually turn a cow before they even consider stepping on it.

The physical deterrent

When coupled with the visual perception of danger, the physical barrier of a Texas Gate usually creates an overwhelming urge to retreat. The most common guards are made with a round top pipe. This is so that when a large, flat-hoofed animal steps on it, it creates an unstable balancing condition for the animal. They instinctively realize it is unsafe footing and realize it is an insurmountable obstruction. They will turn away before putting any real weight on their first ‘test hoof’ and be strongly persuaded to never go near it again.

Dangers and Shortcomings of Cattle Guards

We don’t recommend cattle guards be used with all animals. Some can walk right across (goats), some can leap over (deer) and they can present an outright danger to horses if one ever gets caught up in one.


With the convenience of using these round pipe crossings as effective barriers, there are also dangers present for other animals. The gaps between the top pipes are excellent at creating unstable footing. They also add an optical impediment to crossing livestock and can create a hazard for other animals. The most at risk are horses and we strongly recommend that they not be used with equine. A horse has smaller hooves and thinner legs than a bovine. Their slender legs can slide down between the rails to the bottom of the vaulted area. This puts the most fragile part of the leg at risk of breaking.  When a flight animal such as a horse begins to struggle to try and free itself, it can break its leg trying to get out. There’s nothing worse than seeing a horse stuck in a cattle guard. We do not recommend cattle guard use with equine animals – best to use a gate.

Paws and Small Hoofs

cattle guard is as effective with non-hoofed animals such as dogs and cats. Other smaller, sure-footed hoofed creatures like goats and sheep also cross. The soft pad of a paw allows the animals to walk across the rounded surface of the top pipe. Some smaller hoofed animals can also achieve balance on top of the rails for an easy traverse. Goats are great at balancing on almost anything including cattle guards.


One exception we have seen is with deer. Even though they have smaller hooves, they don’t like unstable footing and will usually look for other paths or routes to roam. However, due to their incredible jumping abilities, we recommend a 12′ or deeper guard to provide a sufficient deterrent for large leaps. They can easily jump a 6′ or 8′ distance but usually won’t attempt a 12′ or longer jump.

Texas Gate Summary

Whether used in a large farm and ranch operation with frequent traffic or a remote area with sporadic traffic, a cattle guard can be an excellent option for keeping your livestock contained. They’ll effortlessly keep them where you want them: grazing and growing.  Keep in mind they don’t work for all animals, but they’re a terrific option for cattle and provide the ultimate convenience for vehicles.

Visit Barn World for their large selection and ask their knowledgeable staff if a guard is right for your operation. They’re also happy to put together a quote with shipping right to your job site!

Barn World | | (720) 238-2190

cattle guards and concrete foundations  cattle guard being removed from a box


2 thoughts on “Cattle Guards instead of Gates

  1. I’m looking for something to keep my goats in.., & dogs out.., without opening a gate to drive my tractor through.
    Can you help me out and tell me what I need.?

    • I’m sorry but dogs and goats will be able to trot across the top of the cattle guards. Gates are about the only option.

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