If you’re going to be installing some gates, whether in a set of corrals or in pens, buying the right gates is important. Here’s a few tips for buying a gate.
Tip #1: get the right length.
This should be simple, but it’s often more complicated than you’d expect.
Different shops measure gates slightly differently.
-Some will make them actual length (so a 14’ gate is exactly 14’ long)
-others will make them fit a hole size (so a 14’ gate is actually 13’9” long, leaving 1.5” on each end.
-Another thing to remember is that if you install posts with guidelines 14’ apart, you also have to account for the post diameter. If you used a 4 1/2 post for the hinge end and a 2 7/8’ post for the latch end, you have 3 3/8” (call it 3”) to subtract from your gate length, so you need a gate that is 13’6” long
-If you’re gate is going across an alley, you may have to account for the depth of your fence, With 2 fences on the inside of an alley, you will have to subtract another 3” to 4” from your gate length.
posts. If you want to use a standard 14’ gate (13’9” end to end) your guidelines could be as much as 14’7” apart! This is were some good planning comes into play because you can end up having to cut a gate down if you forgot about the fence or posts width.
The shop I grew up in would stock gates that were 3” shorter than the nominal size, we would build gates custom length, but they cost a little bit more. When you’re designing, try to make your gates a standard length for ease of purchasing and ease of replacement.
Tip #2: get the right height
You want the gates to be about 10” to 14” above ground level. Any lower and you will have trouble with the snow, and any higher and you’ll have trouble with calves trying to crawl under.
If you’re fence is 5’ tall, get a 4’ gate.
Tip #3: Get the right weight.
Take some time to think about how heavy of a gate you want to install. Installing too light of a gate leads to the gate getting bent up or even breaking. Too heavy of a gate is hard to use and can pull your post over.
Use heavy duty gates in places that get the heaviest pressure, this is the pens that you are sorting out of and alley where you’re driving to your tub or bud box. Combine the heavy gates with heavier posts or overheads for support.
Lighter corral gates can go in front of the chute and on the perimeter of the corrals where they are less likely to get heavy pressure.
If you’re building on a feedlot, just go heavy duty everywhere and get posts to match. Fat cows are just hard on things and you’re better off just building it heavy to begin with.
Tip #4: Buy a good latch on gates that need it.
Every gate should have a good quality chain latch. This latch does a couple things that most other latches are bad at. First, it is fool proof, other gate latches can get bent, out of alignment, rusted up, or fall apart. A heavy chain latch just works.
For most applications, a type of “Cowboy latch” is ideal. Plus One Manufacturing makes a really nice one that is smooth on the end, but other manufacturers make ones that do the job.
Automatic “Slam” latches can be used in places where quick action is needed. Take great care in designing where and how you use these. They work great,but they require some care if you want them to work well next year as well.
Tip#5: Plan it out before you go buy gates.
Planing ahead. Whether you are building a new set of corrals, or replacing a few gates on the old setup, take the time to measure things out accurately, draw them up on graph paper, or even better on SketchUp, and make sure you’re gates are doing what you want them to.
When in doubt, go back and measure again. It’s a lot cheaper than digging a post up or re-welding a gate.
Make sure to follow along on social media (links at bottom of the page) and don't be a stranger if you’re needing some help designing up a set of corrals! Click the contact button to send an email, or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.