12 June 1998

Farm rocks a low-cost way

Wet weather this spring

forced many producers to

keep stock in, but those

with tracks and fencing in

place grazed stock even in

the wet. Here we outline

some options for improving

tracks and fencing.

Edited by Jessica Buss

MOST producers can use farm sourced raw materials to build tracks and improve access to pasture at low cost.

According to BGS consultant Paul Bird, tracks built using farm rock offer a high return on investment, by allowing cows access to grazing in wet weather.

"Wood bark chipping tracks do not appear to be successful in difficult weather, they need too much maintenance and are expensive."

Tracks 3-5m (10ft x 16ft) wide can often be built for between £1 and £5/m length, when the rock hardcore is free.

Mr Bird advises looking for an area of the farm which dries out quickly to excavate for rock. Almost any type is suitable for a track base, although some, such as granite, will need a topping which you may have to buy in, he says.

"When no rock of any type is found, and you are in a built-up area, look out for demolition hardcore, which is cheap. But hardcore will also need a topping for cows to walk on."

There is also the option of selling the topsoil taken off when digging out rock and from where the track is to be placed, unless it is to be used to fill the excavation site.

But it is not essential to remove the topsoil when building a new track. Building a track over it will make a higher surface, and will save excavation costs, says Mr Bird. But when the topsoil is left in place ensure enough hardcore or rock is used and roll it down well, he adds.

"The depth of material you need for the track will depend on your soils." He suggests a minimum of 22cm (9in) of material, packed down with a vibrating roller.

"You are aiming to make a surface that rain will run-off, so it needs a slope or a camber." After the first year, this may need topping in areas which have settled, but after that it should need little maintenance, he adds.

When using hard rocks, such as granite, rock with flints or hardcore, a 2.5cm (1in) topping of another material is needed. But many rocks are suitable for cows to walk on, including limestone, Welsh Rad, chalk and sandstone.

Chalk can become slippery when wet, so when making tracks on hills a topping of quarry dust may be needed to ensure cows can walk safely, advises Mr Bird.

Make the best tracks where they will get the most use, and save money on tracks for occasional use. Tracks further away from the farm which cows walk on less often can be narrower, he suggests.

Many rock types can be made into suitable surfaces for cows to walk on, says Paul Bird.