Good cow tracks essential to maximise grass use

Effective tracks are crucial to maximise grass use, said Richard Simpson, Kingshay development director, speaking at a recent Kingshay Open Day.

“With grazed grass costing 2.7p/litre and silage costing from 5p/litre, it is well worth making the most of grass.”

And good tracks will allow cows to be put out up to four weeks early, said Ian Ratcliffe, assistant technical specialist.

“Investing in good quality tracks will pay dividends in terms of reduced lameness. There is no point skimping on cow tracks, particularly when considering a single lameness case costs an average £217/cow.”

Tracks should be smooth and hard wearing with no sharp stones to reduce lameness and get cows walking faster, said Mr Simpson.

“There are many track options available, the choice of which will depend on whether you want to use them for cows or for cows and machinery – look at longevity and the cost of establishment.”

Concrete rubble can be crushed, graded and compacted using specialised machinery. The harder and cleaner the product the better, said Mark Golding of M P and K M Golding.

“The soil should be rolled and compressed first. Top soil can be taken off, but you must have enough material to replace it as it is crucial the top material is higher than the base.”

This can be an effective way of using farm rubble, said Mr Ratcliffe. “However, when using farm rubble, you must obtain a free waste exemption from The Environment Agency under exemption 19A.” And when rubble is supplied from a non farm source, you must pay for a licence to use on farm.

Concrete sleepers offer an alternative option, but the quality can be variable. “Sleepers are ideal for long, straight lines, but can be uneven and rough – you will use four sleepers/metre at a cost of about £6/each.”

Although bark tracks were popular 8-9 years ago, they create problems in terms of cow flow and maintenance, Mr Simpson explained. “A lot of bark tracks are just over a metre wide, so they work well until a heifer wants to turn around and then cow flow is disrupted.”

The fact bark tends to rot down also means tracks need to be topped up regularly at a cost of about £2-3/metre.

Track Costs

Type of Track

Width (m)


£/running metre

Cow track




Repair existing stone track




New track with rubble




Concrete sleepers




New concrete track – 4in deep




Cow and tractor track




Repair existing stone track

and mix in cement







New track with rubble

and mix in cement







New concrete track – 6in deep




Source: Kingshay. Prices are guide only