15 November 1996

Installing a track system puts

cow welfare on a firm footing

By Allan Wright

AREAS around water troughs and gateways badly need improving on many dairy farms.

So said dairy consultant John Hughes – who developed the cow tracks system – at a meeting of Scottish dairy farmers on Monday.

"Those areas are often a disgrace from a welfare point of view. Using cow tracks can make an enormous difference," he said at the cow welfare day organised by the Scottish Agricultural College, Auchincruive, Ayrshire.

"Many farmers dump old building rubble and stones around gateways and water troughs and think they are doing well. Many troughs are broken or leak and the surrounding area is wet and muddy.

"In far too many cases erosion around the watering area means the trough is standing too high. Cows have to lean over the top and gulp at water instead of drinking comfortably. The trough should never be more than a metre above ground level and should be surrounded by a level area of dry surface," said Mr Hughes.

He said the cow track system was ideal for troughs and gateways, but there should be a separate entry at gateways for vehicles. A recently developed alternative, already adopted on a farm in Pembrokeshire, was to have twin concrete tracks for tractors with the cow track in the middle.

"The cost of cow tracks is about £8 a metre if installed by farm staff and £18 a metre if the work is done by a contractor. These prices make cow tracks viable for any dairy farmer who currently has to walk cows some distance to regular grazings," he said.n

Gateways and water trough areas could benefit from cow tracks to reduce erosion and maintain welfare standards, said consultant John Hughes.