Cow tracks should be seen as a crucial part of a farms infrastructure, according to DairyCo extension officer Piers Badnell.
He says good, well-maintained cow tracks allow you to extend your grazing season and reduce pasture damage and poaching in gateways. “They also enable quicker grass recovery, and give the cows a comfortable, welfare-friendly surface to move calmly and freely into and out of milking.”
While poorly designed or maintained cow tracks can cause lameness, a good track can actually help in the fight against lameness. “Cows move faster on good tracks, reducing the amount of time taken to travel to and from the pasture. They allow cattle access to pasture for a larger part of the year, reducing the time they spend indoors,” he says.
Cows with existing foot problems can walk more easily on a good surface, and good tracks can help improve udder cleanliness and reduce mastitis by reducing the time cows spend bunched together in muddy wet conditions, adds Mr Badnell.
To help farmers plan and build the right tracks, DairyCo has produced a factsheet as part of its grass+ programme, which can be downloaded from www.dairyco.org.uk or ordered by calling DairyCo Publications on 024 7647 8695.