Cow tracks - finding the right path

Published 26 April 10

When it comes to constructing a cow track drainage is key. Get it right and your track should have a long and useful life, get it wrong and you could be facing track failure in the first few years, says DairyCo extension officer Jo Speed.

"Look to site cow tracks in quick drying, free draining areas, preferably somewhere exposed to sun and wind, " says Jo. "Avoid tracks in heavy shade by keeping them on a south facing side of a hedge if possible, as this allows them to dry faster. 

"Ensure your track has adequate drainage by raising it at least 0.5 metres above the surrounding ground. Creating a camber and ditches either side of the track will ensure that water will drain away quickly and effectively.

"There must be either a cross fall of 150mm on narrow tracks (less than four metres) or a camber of 150mm on wider tracks. Water must not be allowed to run down tracks as it turns them into a kind of riverbed and will erode and destroy them in no time. Drains should be outside the fence if possible to prevent cows walking on them and damaging them.

"If a track is laid across a dip in the field, allow water to escape from the topside by laying pipes under the track. It is also important to know where the water is draining to as there could be environmental issues associated with this.

"Your aim should be to get the water off cow tracks as quickly as possible with as little damage as possible. If the track is to run within 1m of a waterway then specialist advice should be sought from the Environment Agency.

"Good maintenance across the whole track is also crucial to its longevity and effectiveness. One 10 metre section of the track can often cause 90% of the problems. Remember to budget in an annual cost for repairs, whatever material you are using for track construction."

DairyCo has been working with the Environment Agency to look at the best possible sites for tracks and the issues of drainage and runoff.  A new DairyCo publication looks at these issues as well as the design and building of cow tracks, dealing with gradients and the use of waste material.

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