Customer Reviews

How Do Cattle Guards Work?

Have you ever looked at a farm and wondered how do cattle guards work? At first glance, it doesn’t seem like these simple grid-like structures will hold up against cattle. Yet, cows seem to steer clear of them as they go about their business.

Cattle guards are one of the most important additions to farms. They have many different functions that contribute to the safety of livestock and the overall operation of the farm. Today, we answer the question that many of you are asking: how do cattle guards work?

Cattle Guards Keep Animals Safe

Cows are known for their unpredictable behavior. When animals roam freely on farms and ranches, they can inadvertently wander onto roads. This poses a risk to both themselves and passing vehicles. Cattle guards prevent livestock from crossing roads or entering areas where they could potentially endanger themselves. By keeping animals safely contained within designated areas, cattle guards reduce the likelihood of accidents.

Enhances the Longevity of Fences

Traditional fences are susceptible to wear and tear from constant use, especially when livestock need to be moved between pastures. Opening and closing gates leads to broken latches, bent hinges, and damaged fences. Cattle guards offer a more durable alternative, eliminating the need for gates altogether in certain locations. This reduces maintenance costs and extends the lifespan of fences, ultimately saving a lot of money in the long-term.

Cattle Guards Make Livestock Management Efficient

When managing a farm, efficiency is essential. Cattle guards streamline daily operations by controlling the movement of livestock from one grazing area to another without the need for manual intervention. And without a traditional gate to hassle with, it allows farmers to drive their tractors and trucks right into a pasture with ease.

How Do Cows Know Not to Cross Cattle Guards?

Cattle guards are intriguing in their simplicity, relying on the instinctive behavior to deter livestock from attempting to cross. Understanding how cows and other animals perceive cattle guards is key to appreciating their effectiveness:

Visual Perception

Cattle perceive the world, particularly when it comes to visual cues. When a cow approaches a cattle guard, it sees a series of parallel bars or rails placed closely together, creating an illusion of an unbroken surface. From a cow's perspective, this optical illusion creates uncertainty about the ground's stability. Cattle tend to be reluctant to step onto what appears to be an unstable surface. This uncertainty alone is often enough to dissuade them from attempting to cross.

Tactile Sensation

In addition to visual cues, cattle have sensitive hooves. When a cow tries to step onto a cattle guard, it encounters the gaps between the rails. These gaps are uncomfortable for the animal, as they disrupt the firm and stable footing that cows prefer. The tactile sensation of stepping onto the grid reinforces the visual perception of instability, further discouraging cows from venturing across the cattle guard.

Instinctual Behavior

Cattle have evolved over millennia to avoid potential hazards. Their natural instincts include avoiding unfamiliar or uncertain terrain, as it can pose risks to their safety. Cattle guards capitalize on these ingrained behaviors by presenting an obstacle that triggers these instincts. Cows instinctively choose to avoid what they perceive as risky footing, making them unlikely to venture onto a cattle guard.

What Animals Will Not Cross a Cattle Guard?

Cattle guards are ingeniously designed to deter a wide range of animals from crossing. It’s not limited to just cattle. While the primary target is typically cattle and other livestock, numerous other animals exhibit similar avoidance behavior when confronted with these grid-like barriers. Here are some common animals that will typically avoid crossing a cattle guard:

Cattle and Livestock

Naturally, cattle guards are named after cattle because they are exceptionally effective at deterring them. But they also work on other livestock, such as sheep, goats, and horses. These animals rely on visual and tactile cues to avoid stepping onto the bars, which trigger their instincts to avoid potentially unstable terrain.


Deer, known for their cautious nature, tend to be skittish around unfamiliar environments. Cattle guards can evoke uncertainty in deer, leading them to avoid attempting to cross. This can keep deer from causing chaos on your farm.


Wild hogs are often considered a nuisance in some regions. Fortunately, cattle guards can deter them. The tactile discomfort and visual cues provided by the grid pattern deter them from venturing into areas protected by these barriers.

Coyotes and Other Predators

Coyotes and other predators are typically wary of unfamiliar terrain. Cattle guards can create a psychological barrier that dissuades them from attempting to cross into areas where livestock are kept. This protection is valuable for safeguarding animals from potential threats.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cattle Guards

Will a Horse Cross a Cattle Guard?

Horses typically exhibit a strong aversion to crossing cattle guards. This avoidance behavior stems from their natural sensory perception. Horses are cautious by nature.  Furthermore, they are sensitive to terrain. When confronted with a cattle guard's grid-like structure, horses perceive it as unstable footing. This perception triggers their instinct to avoid potentially hazardous ground, making them highly unlikely to attempt crossing a cattle guard.

What Happens When a Cow Gets Stuck in a Cattle Guard?

When a cow gets stuck in a cattle guard, it can be a potentially dangerous situation for the animal. Cattle guards are designed to discourage livestock from crossing, but occasionally, a cow may accidentally step onto the rails, causing its legs to get trapped in the gaps. In such cases, the cow may panic and struggle to free itself, which can lead to injuries or further entanglement. It’s important to respond quickly to the situation. Use tools or machinery such as a cow lifter to gently maneuver the cow out of the cattle guard.

How Much Does it Cost to Install a Cattle Guard?

The cost of installing a cattle guard can vary significantly depending on the size of the cattle guard and materials used in its design. The price range is wide – spanning from $1,000 for a DIY hand-poured concrete cattle guard to $10,000 or more for a custom steel cattle guard. Labor also affects the cost. Complex cattle guards are more expensive.  Additionally, there may be expenses associated with site preparation, excavation, and other site-specific factors. The good news is that these items are very durable and will normally last for decades with little to no maintenance required.


Cattle guards are effective barriers, relying on the behavior of livestock to prevent them from crossing into restricted areas while allowing vehicles to pass without interruption. Their significance in promoting efficient livestock management cannot be overstated. Properly designed, installed, and maintained cattle guards continue to be a cornerstone of efficiency for life on the farm.

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