On the right track with grass

Good access to pasture is one of the critical requirements to make the most of your grassland, according to Hugh Black of the Milk Development Council.

He told delegates at a Grassland UK seminar last week that productive grassland was only of use when you grazed it correctly.

And that required decent cow tracks.

“A good track will prevent poaching, improve foot health, reduce housing costs and provide for flexible grazing,” he said.

It would also reduce labour costs, as cows moved at up to 2.2mph compared with 0.9 mph on a poor surface.

“You end up with clean, happy cows and hopefully improved profitability.”

Key considerations when planning cow tracks were the number of cows using the track, its width, route and cost, any maintenance issues and type of traffic required.

“You also should obtain planning permission for any new tracks.”

A track should be slightly domed and cambered to ensure good run-off, but not so steep as to cause cows to slip.

Surface options include concrete, stone, wood peelings, sand or rubber – all have their advantages and disadvantages.

“Often, it’s down to cost, which means looking at what you have in your local area.”

When planning track routes, farmers should make a farm map of the grazing area and draw in suitable routes, said Mr Black.

“But don’t go straight out and spend a huge amount of money – start small and build on it.”

You should avoid pressure points such as uneven surfaces, tight turns and so on, he said.

“Keep water troughs away from the track and don’t site it next to a sheltered area, as it won’t dry out following wet weather.

It is also useful to have several entrances and exits to a field, to avoid poaching.”

Moveable electric fences are ideal for this.

“Look at other producer’s tracks to get ideas before you install your own.

But once you have your track in place, the essential points are to keep machinery and cows off them unless they are travelling to and from milking.”