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Cattle Guards
what you don't know could hurt you (and your livestock)

Miniature-Cattle.com Homestead Cattle Links How to Save Money & Heartaches Cattle Guards

A cattle guard is an obstacle to cattle in a roadway made from horizontal (usually metal--hopefully round pipe) bars inserted in the roadway over a depression or hole in the ground and parallel to the fence line. It is used for vehicles to drive over, and to replace a gate to contain cattle. The gaps between the bars is a visual deterrent to cattle and they will usually not attempt to cross it. Fake cattle guards are sometimes painted on freeway entrances etc., because the appearance of crossing bars over a hole will also deter cattle.

Many rural homeowners don't know that the common yellow cattle guards built and used by the US government on public roads (paid for by our taxes) are some of the most dangerous, cruel, torture contraptions ever devised. For any poor horse or cow that happens to be chased over a government-made cattle guard, it usually has to be shot out of mercy.

Government cattle guards are made of triangular shape pipes laid closely together. They are designed to work like animal traps. The guard captures the animal, and funnels the feet down between the bars. There it has 2 sharp edges underneath. The bars are set just far enough apart to allow most livestock to fall through between them, but close enough that once through, the foot actually cannot be pulled back up and out. The 2 edges of the open pipe underneath are raw edged metal that catch the fetlock, and cuts or breaks the pasterns while the animals struggles to escape.

Below is the type of cattle guard often used by the government.
This is a closeup -- the bars are too close for livestock safety.

When the government builds or widens highways, it will often install hundreds of these; one in each property's driveway. Most property owners are grateful that they don't have to buy a gate, or a cattle guard themselves. But the savings is small compared to the agony and terror they can cause to hapless livestock if caught in them. Not to mention the livestock owner's time and anguish trying to free a caught animal whose hooves cannot be pulled back out. After the blood sweat and tears, one learns to build one themselves, or buy a used one that is built humanely. The government design is made for deer. If your homestead cattle are miniatures, not a lot larger than a deer, this kind might not be too bad (but is still sharp underneath).

Experienced ranchers make their own humane cattle guards out of heavy round pipe, placed far enough apart to allow a foot to be pulled right back out without further damage, which will not injure the unlucky occasional occupant unless the livestock breaks a leg during the fall or struggling to escape.

This is a cattle guard designed & built by ranchers; safe as possible.



go home little cow
go home little cow

publisher: Vintage Publishers
published online: December 2018
author: Donna Grace Vickery