Cattle Guards are the Ultimate Livestock Gate!

Cattle Guards are the ultimate invisible livestock gate

By Barn World Livestock –

Cattle guards offer ease of access to your livestock pastures, farms, and ranches while keeping your animals safe from wandering. The simple design allows vehicles to pass through a fence line holding most ranch animals without having to stop and open, and then close a gate. If you have through-traffic or other people working on your farm, you never have to worry about an open gate in the middle of the night.


cattle guard with removable box for cleaning underneath


Take a look at some of the more common options to find the fit that’s right for your crossing and call (720) 238-2190 or email for help with your project today!

Top Rail Options:

Barn World offers each of the cattle guard types below with either round pipe or flat pipe on top. The top pipe runs perpendicular to the direction of vehicular traffic and rests directly on the c-channel or i-beams underneath. The weight of the vehicle is transferred from the pipe to the beams and then to the ground.

Flat Top Rails

is ideal for areas of high-speed traffic such as public roadways and other crossings with a lot of traffic moving at a faster clip. The finish allows for a more smooth transition of the barrier with the least amount of ride disruption to the passengers and vehicle. They can commonly be seen in use by state & federal highway projects.

flat top rail cattle guard



are of the same design as the flat pipe and come in 3-1/2 or 4-1/2 diameters.  The round pipe causes a bit more vibration on passing vehicles but is a more effective deterrent to livestock.   The curvature of the pipe creates less of a balancing surface for hoofed animals creating more discomfort on the foot and leg if stepped on.  It is very difficult for large hoofed animals to get a secure footing while balancing all of their weight on such a small, rounded surface.

cattle guard with round pipes


The curved pipe also creates an optical barrier for livestock.  The curvature of the round pipe creates shadows that offer an optical barrier for the animals.

A study was done comparing the effectiveness of traditional round pipe cattle guards to white lines of roughly the same width painted on a black road surface to create the illusion of depth. The painted lines were found initially to be surprisingly more effective than first thought. When cattle were introduced to the markings, they we not interested in testing the barrier, but when they had had some time to inspect the painted surface, they eventually were able to overcome their initial hesitation and cross without effort.  Once they were able to determine the road was indeed flat, they did cross easily. The optical illusion of a barrier did deter them for a time, but when there was an incentive to cross it, they did. The researchers found that they still preferred to go around the markings, but didn’t have a problem crossing once the ‘jig was up’.

Round Steel Rails are Effective

The traditional round, top rail cattle guard, couples the optical deterrent with the physical to provide the most effective obstruction. Livestock that are motivated to attempt a crossing and are brave enough to place a hoof on the guard quickly discover that the footing is unbearably unstable and will usually withdraw their hoof.  After that initial uncomfortable encounter with the steel round pipe, they will typically avoid it at all costs.

We have had reports of some aggressive or spooked bulls attempting to jump over the obstacle.  This is usually done in times of panic and some of the larger more athletic bulls can jump six feet or more on occasion.  For these more muscular and nimble ‘jumpers’ and eight-foot (in the direction of travel) cattle guard has proved to be more than enough to show the animal that it’s a barrier not to be contemplated.

Cattle Guards Don’t Work With All Animals

Of special note, even round-topped guards do not work with all animals. Smaller hoofed farm and ranch livestock such as goats and some sheep can be very nimble and often have no trouble tip-toeing through. Animals with soft pads on their feet can balance on the round piping and although not a comfortable footing, they can walk across if they desire.

Flat top-pipe cattle guard Cattle Guard

Vaulted vs Boxed Cattle Guards

A second option available in the selection of cattle guards is the boxed vs. the traditional vaulted one that requires a footing to rest on. The box is designed to lay directly on the ground in low-traffic areas without a concrete foundation.

The boxed cattle guard

boxed cattle guard to lay on the ground
Boxed guards have a steel skirt surrounding them. The skirt may be either welded into place or be built to be removable.  The integral box is a steel skirt welded directly on that creates a barrier for dirt to creep underneath. With this type of box, installation may be made directly on the ground without the need for footings or digging. To clean out any debris that may have built up over time, it is simply drug out of place and then slid right back in.  At nearly 12 inches tall, dirt ramps are built up on either side to allow vehicles to cross over.

This type of installation is considered less permanent and is very popular in low-traffic areas and construction sites needing an equipment washout area or a dirt rumble to clean vehicles before they enter a public roadway. They are also more ‘portable’ and may be moved from job site to job site if necessary.

Cattle Guard Installation

is done with a concrete foundation (although other materials are also used; for example railroad ties) and a ‘vault’ area is dug underneath to collect debris. Typically, a rectangular concrete foundation is poured to keep the dirt walls from falling in and to provide support to the beams that run in the direction of traffic.  Although not considered a difficult endeavor, an experienced contractor who is familiar with the local soil conditions and frost/freeze levels is highly recommended. If not properly supported, changes to the soil during freezing, water saturation, or runoff may affect the structural integrity of the crossing and the cattle guard itself.


cattle guard resting on concrete foundations


ATV Cattle Guards

There is also a cattle guard specifically designed for ATV use in crossing fence lines.  We’ve custom-built these for golf cart passage as well. Simply cut whole in your fence line and drop this guard into place. Once you connect your fencing to the vertical supports in the middle, you’re done. That’s all that’s needed!


atv resting on a cattle guard


Drive-over Gates

Another alternative to traditional cattle guards.  These gates pivot and allow it to lay flat for a vehicle to safely cross over and then return to its upright position automatically.  This type of gate has been successfully used in busy feedlots with lots of tractor and truck traffic and provides yet another secure means of keeping livestock in place while allowing access to busy areas.


truck driving over a livestock gate


Cattle Guard Load Ratings

The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials or AASHTO supplies maximum load ratings necessary for highway bridges and all crossings that support traffic. The common load design specifications are shown in the table below:

Per Axle Load Ratings
H-15 (12 tons per axle)
H-20 (16 tons per axle)
U-54 (25 tons per axle)
U-80 (30 tons per axle)

These ratings are used by engineers who issue certificates of design reports and certify builders to ensure the product meets the load requirements for the ratings used above. To achieve the designation, manufacturers must use specific welding techniques, materials, and designs before the guard can be certified and used in a public roadway.  For most highway crossings, the 16-ton per axle or H-20 rating is used.

Driveway Cattle Guards

When used on private property, the grids don’t require an engineer’s certification and are therefore more economical than the rated. Designed for use on private property, they can be made from the same materials and design specifications as the rated.

All cattle guards sold by Barn World are built to withstand fully loaded semi-trucks and large farm equipment. They are very popular with traditional farm and ranch operations.

Concrete Cattle Guards

Note that we do offer an alternative to steel: concrete cattle guard forms. These poly forms create a livestock barrier that won’t allow a hoof to slide down between steel rails. They taper together into a 2-inch base as shown below.


concrete cattle guard


There are two different forms for use. One is set in the ground and left there after the pour. The other is a reusable form that allows you to pour as many as you like!  Click either picture below for more details.

large concrete cattle guard form being unloaded by two people  reusable concrete cattle guard form with tractor pulling out a finished guard

Effortless Cattle Crossings

Considered the most effective means of controlling and containing livestock on a farm and ranch. These crossings offer the ultimate ease of access for all types of vehicles. They create peace of mind and security no matter who needs to pass through a fence line.

For more information on our full line of farm and ranch supplies or any help with your livestock supplies, contact Barn World at 720.238.2190 or today!





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