Winter is a tough time for cows and farmers, constant wet conditions lead to weakened claw hoof walls and soles that can become very thin, increasing lameness and injury potential. When lesions occur with mud/manure, a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and infection can also result. Being able to identify cows that are showing walking impairment and then treating both safely and quickly is vital to prevent economic loses and welfare concerns. Ensuring safe and effective laneways allows cows and staff to manage winter wetness.
Width: Laneways need to be wide enough for the amount of cows in your herd. It’s recommended that the path be about 5.0metres across for less than 120 cows, with an added 0.5 metres per 100 cows.
Base: The base needs to be made of a course material, built up above the paddock for good drainage. Pack it tightly by using a vibrating roller at a slow speed. The crown should be at no more than a 5% slope, otherwise it will be too steep and may cause cows to stumble or fall. Cows actually prefer the laneway to be level.
Surface Layer: The surface layer needs to be comfortable for the cows to walk on, at least 50mm thick with a clay component of 15-30%. Compaction is essential to shed water.
Drainage: Dig your trenches on the paddock side of the fence so the cows don’t walk through the water. Grass build up is a positive thing as it can help prevent erosion of your laneway, but make sure to dig out sections periodically so water can still flow through.
Shaded Areas: Shaded laneways bordered with hedges or grass are difficult to dry as both sun and wind cannot penetrate the trees, and digging trenches through scrub is very difficult. Removing trees and plants may not be an option, so the only thing to do is be patient and allow the cows to go at their own pace and pick the safest way through.
High Traffic Areas: A big problem area is just before the concrete apron and the yard itself. Frequent maintenance is required for both the drainage and the surface layer to minimise mud/manure and moisture exposure. Create a transition surface immediately before the concrete junction by spreading 50-100mm of a fine material like lime, and compacting it well. This will prevent gravel and rocks being carried onto the concrete area by the cow’s feet. A nib wall on the concrete lane junction is also effective at controlling wash down water flowing down the laneway, reducing mud and erosion while making the cows lift their legs, dropping most of any rocks off before standing on a non-yielding surface of the concrete yard.
The design of your laneways is important for trafficking your cows at a good pace safely, our experts at Eagle Direct are keen to help you find farming solutions that will keep your animals happy and comfortable all winter long. Contact us on (02) 6394 6064 to get started.