Designing and building a cow track

To give your new cow track the best chance of success, there are a few things to keep in mind when designing and building it. Work through our checklist of considerations to make sure you’re constructing an effective and long-lasting track.

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Designing and building a cow track

When designing and building a cow track, there are a number of things to keep in mind to give your new track the best chance of success. Here is a checklist of points to consider:

  • Topsoil: Unlike for machinery track, there’s no need to strip off topsoil before laying a new cow track
  • Length: If you need to compromise on the length of track, the length nearest to the field opening could be left as grass only, as it will only be used twice every 21 days at most
  • Material: You may need to use a more substantial material for the stretch leading to the parlour or yard, but beware that stones from the track can transfer onto the concrete floor, which increases the chance of sole damage
  • Depth: Tracks sink over time, so it’s important to build them up well at the start
  • Compaction: Build the body of the track in 150 mm layers and use a method of compaction that will increase track durability and lifespan, such as a vibrating roller
  • Camber: The camber should be 3–6% (maximum 10%), be free-draining and exposed to the wind and sun for quick drying

The diagram below shows a cross-section of a track using the proud crown design, with a camber appropriate to its 4 m width.

Diagram of a cross section of track using the proud crown design with a camber suitable for width.

  • Fencing: Place fences so that they won’t interfere with maintenance tasks or affect cows walking along the edge of the track.

The diagram below shows the location of fencing to ensure cows have access to the full width of the track and to take advantage of a natural slope for drainage.

Diagram of track showing location of fencing so cows access the full width of track

  • Ditches: Make edges steep in ditches to stop verges forming
  • Drainage: If necessary, construct cross-drains to carry run-off into existing drains on the edge of the track. Ensure this is diverted off the track and not onto lower areas of the track or into water courses
  • Slope: Installing cross-drains or sleeping policemen is essential on sloping tracks where run-off is an issue or where a track leads onto a highway. You can also link drains with a sediment trap to prevent excess run-off from contributing to localised flooding

Useful links

Find out about the advantages of cow tracks

Learn how cows behave on a cow track

Find out what to consider when planning your cow track route

Learn about materials for your cow track

Find out more about maintaining a cow track

Learn about draining your cow track

Find out how to calculate cow track costs

Learn how to fence a cow track

Download the Cow tracks guide

AHDB has a number of technical resources for you to use on farm and in the office. If you would like to order a hard copy of Cow tracks, please contact:

Telephone: 0247 799 0069

Alternatively, you can order online using the form below:

Dairy order form