13 November 1998

Tips to reduce cow track bills

THE cost of cow tracks will rule them out for most dairy farms in the current economic climate, acc-ording to Tim Wassell from SAC.

"Tracks provide a number of benefits, not least in cow welfare, but they are expensive at £14-£20/m length before fencing, and cannot be afforded at todays returns for milk," he told a conference at Auchincruive last week.

As well as the initial cost there was regular maintenance at £1/m a year in renewed bark. But he suggested that costs could be cut to £10/m by using farm labour.

Jumbo flakes, a large and thick type of bark cost twice as much as bark peelings. "But we found on the track here at Auchincruive that jumbo flakes lasted twice as long so the net cost was about the same. Bark peelings needed to be topped up at least twice in a season," he said.

SAC had also found that a 20m length of track laid with stones but without the covering membrane quickly degenerated into a boggy mess. "It highlighted the need to have some form of containment for the stone," he said.

"In the two seasons since it was laid, the track has performed well. From a welfare point of view the track is highly beneficial – cows move faster and appear more relaxed in their movement. There is a spring in their step," said Dr Wassell.

Part of the track had been on a slope and a system of placing a railway sleeper every 2m along the slope had contained the track extremely well. &#42