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If you've got fences, you'll need gates. The best sorts of gates are the ones that open and close easily, and contain animals regardless of whether the electric fence unit is on or not. Taranaki gates might be OK for gateways that get opened rarely or very occasionally, but for higher traffic areas - you can't beat a farm gate on hinges. "Replace Taranaki Gates" has always been near the top of the to-do list on every property I've ever owned.

Generally speaking, farm gates can be either wood or metal. Both types have their pros and cons, choice usually comes down to one or a combination of personal preference, practicality and budget.

Wooden gates


  • Look good, especially near to house/main driveway.
  • Are a more visible barrier to stock - most animals are less likely to attempt to crash through a wooden gate than a steel one.
  • Can be made to fit a non-standard opening.
  • You can design your own style and make them yourself.
  • Easier to repair than steel gates if damaged.


  • Heavier than a steel gate, need larger strainer posts.
  • Harder to hang without a second person helping.
  • Potential problems opening/closing in high winds.
  • May warp or break at weak points (knots/splits).

Metal gates


  • Lighter than wooden gates, less pressure on strainer posts.
  • Easier for one person to hang.
  • Range of standard sizes, weights and styles.
  • Hinges are integral to the gate and have more vertical adjustment than wooden gates.
  • Can be cheaper than wooden gates, depending on sizes and any quantity discounts.


  • Lighter weight gates won't stand up to as much stock pressure.
  • Custom gate widths are expensive.
  • Can short onto electric fences making for unpleasant gate opening experiences.
  • Harder to repair if bent or damaged.

Wooden gates

If you choose to use wooden gates there are a few things to bear in mind.

Prices quoted by suppliers of wooden gates do not usually include hingestraps and bolts or gudgeons. Steel gate prices will typically include hinges but not gudgeons. Depending on the size of gate, hingestraps can add significantly to the cost of the gate - making what looked like a bargain not so great after all.

Use hinge straps and gudgeons sized appropriately to the gate you're hanging - they're going to carry the entire weight of the gate. For wooden gates over 1.2 - 1.5m wide, use 20mm diameter gudgeons, and use thru-post (bolt thru and/or lock thru) gudgeons. My preference is to use a lock-thru gudgeon for the top hinge, and a bolt-thru at the bottom. Making one of them a 'long pin' gudgeon allows you to secure the gate to stop it being lifted off the strainer post.

pinned gudgeon

The easiest way to stop cattle lifting gates off their hinges is to secure them through a long pin gudgeon - in this case with a 5 inch nail into the strainer post. (click for larger image)

Screw in gudgeons are a little cheaper but they're not as strong as thru post ones, and you need to lift the gate completely off to adjust them - which often isn't that easy with wooden gates (thru post gudgeons can be adjusted with the gate in place). If in doubt about hinges and gudgeons - ask at your rural supplies/hardware store for advice.

Some of the different types of gudgeons:


Gudgeon types

A wooden gate should have a top plate or cap board on it (nailed flat along the top rail in the gate) - to give it strength, and to protect the gate if cattle try to jump over it. The diagonal brace on a standard wooden gate should run down to the end it is hinged on - using compression to support the gate.

Check gates you are buying to make sure they have no split or broken boards, or large loose knots in them. All joins on a wooden gate should be bolted with galvanized coach bolts (cup head bolts).

Making your own wooden gates can save you money - if you have cheap timber available and consider your labour at no cost. The easiest way to make wooden gates is to work to a template - which can be as simple as a pattern drawn on a concrete shed floor with builders pencil or engineers chalk.

Standard paddock gates for most animals can be made from 100x25mm timber (H3 treated pine or a naturally durable alternative). Cattle yard gates need to be made from heavier gauge timbers - 150x40mm or 150x25mm as follows:

Cattle Yard Gates:

Rails: 150x25mm if gate under 1200mm wide
150x40mm if gate over 1200mm.
Diagonal: 150x25mm double running up from hinge end at bottom of gate
or 150x40mm if single.

these are the vertical boards at each end of the gate. Double heads are stronger than singles and give you a solid base to secure the cap board to.

150x25mm for double heads or 150x40mm for singles.

Cap Board: 25mm thick timber - width will vary depending on overall thickness of finished gate - make cap rail slightly wider (5-10mm) than gate is thick. Nail cap board down with 75mm decking or flooring nails.
Hinge Straps: use 450mm or 600mm long heavy duty hinge straps with stock yard gates. Anything smaller is a waste of time
Bolts: use 10mm diameter galvanized coach bolts with round washers - to bolt the gate together at every point on gates that boards cross each other, and to secure the hinge straps to the gate.
Catches: if you're using hooks and chains with stockyard gates - don't use standard ones - they're too light. Use the heavy duty ones designed specifically for stockyards. Better still - use self latching catches - there's a range on the market - your local rural supplies or hardware store should be able to help.
Gudgeons: Use 'lock thru' post gudgeons (for at least one of the hinges) and 'thru post' for the other. Make one of them a long pin gudgeon and pin through to stop cattle lifting the gate off its hinges. Do not use screw in gudgeons in cattle yards.

Metal gates

Metal gates come in a range of styles and sizes - the most common styles being horizontal barred, vertical barred (often called 'Jailer' gates) and mesh (Hurricane) gates. The most common sizes in horizontal barred gates are 3.05/3.35/3.66/3.96/4.27/4.57m (10/11/12/13/14/15 ft) wide and either 1.00m or 1.05m high. Nowadays 3.66 (12ft) and 4.27m (14ft) are the most common gate widths used. Extra wide gate openings can be created with double gates - bear in mind that they don't have to be identical widths - you can use an 11ft with a 14ft gate to span a 25ft opening if necessary.

There are also a number of specialist steel stockyard gate manufacturers around the country. Local engineering firms are also an option if you have a specific requirement for a non-standard or extra heavy duty gate.

Generally, lighter gates are cheaper. Cheaper isn't always best - choose a gate weight to suit the stock you are trying to contain. Stock - particularly cattle and horses can damage steel gates quite easily. You can discourage stock from rubbing or pushing against a fence by installing electric fence offsets or tape gates in front of the gate. To straighten a bent gate - lay it on firm ground (driveway, concrete etc), bulge upwards, and drive (slowly) over the bent bars to straighten. You might need to repeat this a few times - it won't usually restore the gate to perfectly straight, but it will get you close.

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