Materials for cow tracks

When it comes to choosing materials for building your cow track, you have a number of options. Find out what to consider when deciding on the best material to use for your track and herd.

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Cow track surface materials

There are a number of cow track surface options to choose from, ranging from solid surfaces (such as concrete or concrete railway sleepers) to softer surfaces (such as woodchip, sand, limestone dust and numerous commercial products). It may also be possible to use either an on-farm supply of stone or waste building rubble in the base of the track.

Potential surface materials include:

  • Oolitic limestone, laid with a vibrating roller in 2 in layers (following wet weather to aid compaction)
  • Sandstone
  • Chalk – to which you can add sand to reduce the risk of cows slipping
  • Crushed stone or rubble – commercial crushers can be contracted in, and the stone can be stabilised with cement if needed
  • Woodchips
  • Stone dust

What to consider when choosing the surface for your cow track

Cows walk better on softer surfaces, but there are several things to keep in mind when deciding on the best material to use for your cow track. These include:

  • The gradient of the track
  • Typical weather conditions
  • Disposal if no longer required
  • Tracks should be for cows only

Other considerations include:

  • Remember that concrete has an abrasive property on hooves when herds are walking long distances on tracks
  • Don’t use material of a size and shape that can be trapped between the claws
  • Any bought-in materials should be screened for metal, which can puncture and damage soles
  • If using sleepers, place them directly onto topsoil rather than digging into a trench
  • If using sleepers, there is no need for a crossfall on the track
  • To increase the life of your track, use a geotextile membrane to create a barrier between the topsoil and the track material, which should prevent large stones and mud from rising to the surface

Waste and permissions

Some of these materials are classified as ‘waste’, which may have a bearing on the permissions you need to use them. Please contact the Environment Agency before starting to build your tracks and apply for the relevant waste exemption licence. In most cases it will be U1 – Use of waste in construction, which covers using crushed bricks, concrete, rocks and aggregate to build a track, road or car park.

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

Discover how to design and build a 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

Information on the anatomy of a healthy cow’s foot

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