Cattle Lane Construction Alternatives That Enhance Intensive Grazing Systems
It has become evident to me that a major limitation to being able to fully use a pasture system is the lack of a lane system that allows the cows convenient access to paddocks throughout the year. I, and many other producers, have been reluctant to use pasture in wetter periods because of muddy land conditions, dirty cows, and potential damage to paddocks. And these very times of wet conditions are actually times when pasture availability and quality can be very good. Unfortunately, neither the use of mechanical harvesting equipment nor access by cows has been feasible in the past. I believe that the success and sustainability of pasture-based dairying in the Southeast will be dependent upon improving the efficiency of the use of year-round forage to allow economic returns with acceptable environmental consequences.
After participating in an Irish dairy study tour in 1998, I saw that dairy farmers there gave very high priority to establishing all-weather travel lanes which allowed access to paddocks every day of the year. Also, I have learned that by moving cows to fresh paddocks every day or even after every milking can minimize paddock damage and allow more time for recovery and regrowth. However, many grazers here in the U.S. have questions about cattle lane construction and the advantages and disadvantages of different surface materials.
I will construct about 3,000 linear feet of 10-foot wide all-weather cattle travel lanes using industrial fabric filter cloth covered in separate sections with one of several different types of surface material: 1) packed and rolled crusher-run rock; 2) reconstituted asphalt; 3) chopped slabs of recycled rubber tires; 4) ground limestone and 5) other promising materials as available. If all types of surface materials work satisfactorily, then grazers can choose based on local prices and availability.