12 June 1998

Maintenance-free concrete is cheaper, too

CONCRETE cow tracks need less maintenance and can be built for a similar cost to bark tracks with drainage stone and special membranes.

That is the reason Casper Bush of Peart Farm, Norton St Philip, Bath, Somerset, gives for installing concrete rather than bark tracks this spring to help his 110 cows access grazing.

Last year he tried constructing a track of bark directly on to grass between wooden rails of 15cm x 5cm (6cm x 2in). "It worked well until it rained, then the bark added resistance to the mud and cows were reluctant to walk on it once it became boggy," says Mr Bush.

He considered excavating the area and laying a track with a Terram membrane, drainage stone and bark topping. But the cost of that type of track was similar to laying a 1.5m (5ft) wide concrete track using 10-12.5cm (4-5in) of hardcore between wooden rails which had retained the bark.

The concrete track, which was built in March this year, is wide enough for two cows, but not wide enough for tractors or vehicles, he adds. It was, therefore, possible to use less hardcore and save on excavation costs. Hardcore cost £2/m (£1.80/yd) length and the concrete was £5/m (£4.50/yd). It was laid using farm labour.

"As we cannot drive on it and it will only take pedestrian traffic, I will be disappointed if it did not look the same in 10 years," says Mr Bush.

Keeping vehicles off the track should also prevent stones being dragged on to it and causing damage to cows feet.

He believes using concrete will also save on maintenance costs compared with bark tracks. Neighbours who have bark tracks are topping them up every year with bark at a cost of £1-£2/m (90p-£1.80/yd), he adds.

His 120m (135yd) track gives access to grazing on one side of the buildings and leads into the middle of a 8ha (20-acre) field, which is now split into five paddocks. The track allows cows to access all except one paddock from more than one gateway, reducing the risks of having to walk cows through muddy gateways.

Mr Bush plans to build another similar concrete track to access grazing on the other side of buildings.

The concrete track has already proved its worth during wet April weather, when cows were able to go out on all except three days. Many neighbouring farms had to keep cows housed for much longer, he adds.

Tracks will allow grazing when otherwise it wouldnt be possible which should improve profits, says Mr Bush. &#42

Narrow concrete cow tracks are cheaper to install than bark and membrane type tracks and should be maintenance free, says Casper Bush.