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BLM and USFS Cattle Guards
BLM and USFS Cattle Guard Specifications, Uses, and Requirements
Cattle guards are an important part of the safety and security for all of your cattle. When these are installed properly, they will make sure that your cattle stay in the right area and do not get harmed by crossing into a busy road or interstate. There are certain requirements that these cattle guards will need to meet to ensure that the animals and people can stay safe. Understanding what cattle guards are and how they work will help you to choose the right one.
What is a Cattle Guard?
Cattle, horses, and many other livestock have difficulty when it comes to vision and being able to perceive depth. Instead of putting gates on every road crossing in the fence line, it is possible to use a visual barrier that will still allow a vehicle to pass by easily, while preventing the animal from crossing past it.
You will often see cattle guards where a road is going to cross a fence line on ranches and farms over onto a highway or another busy road in states that are open range. If the farm is close to a high-traffic area, these cattle guards can be used to not only prevent cows and other livestock from crossing, but wildlife from getting hit as well.
You will often see cattle guards (sometimes called cattle grids) made out of high strength, steel beams that will cross a narrow hole in the ground. You may choose to dig the hole out for this or use a ditch crossing. Cattle are usually afraid to cross these structures due to depth perception and the fear of falling through the slats of the grid. The goal here is to create some kind of visual barrier that will keep the animals from stepping over the fence line.
What is a BLM or USFS Cattle Guard?
BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management. This is the group that will manage the grazing for livestock on 155 million acres of land in the USA. The rules for grazing on lands managed by BLM are set forth and permits are issued to public land ranchers. Part of these rules have to do with the kinds of cattle guards that can be in place. Any rancher who is using BLM managed lands will need to make sure that the cattle guard they utilize meets these requirements.
The USFS is the United States Forest Service and is one of the agencies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This is in charge of the 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands in the country. They will also have certain requirements for all of the cattle guards that are used, mainly making sure that the cattle are not only safe, but that they stay on the designated land to prevent accidents or harm to them or to other people.
Ranchers and farmers who are within the jurisdiction of either of these two groups will need to make sure that any cattle guard they use is approved by one or both of these groups, depending on the area where you are located. You should receive rules and terms when you first get started along with any updates that may happen. This is done to preserve the area you are on and to keep both humans and the animals safe.
Both the BLM and the USFS generally require either HS-20 or HS-25 rated cattle guards. The higher the rating, the higher the payload that the guards can hold. In an area where very heavy machinery, such as logging trucks, will be crossing, HS-80 rated guards may be required. The strongest cattle guards can hold 40,000 pounds or more.
Additionally, all cattle guards used on BLM or USFS land must be set down in on concrete walls, also known as “piers”. The concrete will have strict specifications and requirements as to it size, shape, and load bearing capacity.
When Do I Need a Cattle Guard?
A cattle guard is a good way to help make sure that all of your livestock will stay on your land. This can be useful if you are worried about the livestock wandering off or if you live in a busy area and do not want the livestock to get hurt when they wander off into the street. When put in place properly, these cattle guards will help keep your animals within your land, helping them and others stay safe.
Do the Cattle Guards Work?
As you are installing a cattle guard, you may wonder if these will actually work. The fence barrier that you put up here will work most of the time, though there are exceptions. It is possible that the cattle will learn that the hole you used is not that wide or deep enough so they may cross or jump over them and go on to the other side.
Whether they will figure out the cattle guard or not will depend on the cow. Some will think that the grass is greener on the other side so they are more motivated to find a way over there. If there isn’t much that entices them across from the cattle guard, there is less of a chance that they will even try.
You should also pay attention to the shape of your cattle guard. Even if you did a good job in the beginning, it is possible that the hole beneath the cattle guard can fill in with some dirt or gravel. You may need to dig out the hole again to make this work or your cattle will just walk right over again.
Are Cattle Guards Safe?
Yes, these cattle guards are generally safe for livestock. Cattle are naturally afraid to cross over the metal slats. For a person, they are easy to walk over if you have a little patience. Vehicles can drive over them easily and be safe as well. You should monitor your livestock though to make sure they do not get too brave with the cattle guard. Some may try to cross over and then slip through and get stuck. It is also easy for them to break a leg. The good news is most will leave this area alone so it should not be an issue too often.
A cattle guard can be a great addition to help make sure your livestock are safe. with this in place, it is more likely that your livestock will stay on your land without having to put up a huge fence, keeping the animals and any people driving by as safe as possible. If you need to put up a cattle guard for your livestock, make sure you get one that meets all the BLM and USFS requirements in your area.
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