Dairy Cattle - Lameness (PB4020)

Outdoor Areas

Many access routes to and around dairy buildings are constructed from various types of aggregate. This leads to loose material which can both be uncomfortable to the cow whilst walking and can lead to bruising of the sole or solar penetration. Maintaining gateways free from all stones and flints is as important as the maintenance of access routes.

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Specialised farm tracks (typically 1-2m wide and dug to a depth of 0.3m) which are dedicated for use by the cows allow them to walk in comfort, provided they are constructed with a base which allows quick drainage and a soft surface such as shredded bark.

The trench is lined with a semi-permeable membrane and packed with clean gravel over a perforated pipe. The membrane is then folded back over the gravel and covered with the surface material.

Such tracks have been used on some farms for over 20 years and, with good maintenance, have worked well. Specialist advice should be sought before installation.


When allowed to walk at their own speed, cows are able to place their feet carefully to avoid obstacles or rough or sharp objects. Cows generally will walk in single file and follow well-worn cow tracks.

When they are forced to hurry they bunch together and cannot choose where to place their feet, so are more likely to sustain damage from sharp stones. In addition to gateways, areas around field water troughs also require careful construction. Similar principles to farm tracks apply. Regular maintenance is essential.

Cows should not be walked regularly to grazing for distances of more than around 0.5 kilometres on concrete or tarmacadam surfaces, as excess wear to the hoof can occur.

Ideally, cows should not use the same roadways as vehicular traffic, particularly concrete or tarmacadam roads. Where this is inevitable, the road should be brushed clean at least twice per week to remove loose stones and other aggregates.

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