When a grazing program with individual paddocks is a method of dairying, there are certain givens. One of those is cows traveling to get to the paddocks. Cows leave the cement and step on the ground. Where the cement ends, the mud begins, generating stress to the cow, and as harmful as stress is to “humans”, it is an extremely important factor in loss of milk production for cows. Knowing that, our number one objective was the ability to move cows from the barn, a distance of 1 mile or more, as comfortable as possible.
We did some research on using “ground covers”, and discovered that using Geo-Textile cloth
as a base cover, we could then apply a surface over that to make “roads” for our cows to travel on. Now our cows are not stressed in mud and are able to move these distances with no stress and Their appetites seemed to increase because of the easy, calm, comfortable walking.
The research on the surface products consisted of 5 items: slate rock/sand clay, clean gravel
screening, limestone, 1 ½ inch crusher run base, and chipped tires. Chipped tire was immediately
eliminated because the pieces of tire we sampled would carry in the cow’s hooves and be left in the pastures and the wire in the tire we considered to be a threat. The tire would not pack, and heavy rains would wash it into fields. The tire was material was also expensive. Slate rock/sand clay packed very well, but when rains came, it would stick to the cow’s hooves and would again be carried into the paddocks.
The granite clean screenings contained too many small, sharp particles of granite and passed a “danger” to the cow’s hooves. Limestone was an excellent choice for good hoof health, but it would require almost constant applications on the road paths. Finally, the 1 ½ inch sand based crusher run seemed to be the best of the surfaces. It would last for many years with no added amounts. Our initial application of 4 to 6 inches deep showed a little cow discomfort, but packing with a heavy duty roller ( and a good rain ) seemed to end the cow discomfort. We discovered that after rains, repacking should be done because rain seems to bring the rocks to the surface.
Our summary, then, is that geo-textile cloth, crusher run, and the ability to pack will produce excellent happy cow roads or “travel lanes”.