Regardless of the surface type, aim to have the following features:

  • Evenly graded and compacted surface – a smooth, impervious surface maximises drainage, minimises leaching into subsoils and ground water
  • Sufficient slope to use gravity drainage

Remember, the type of surface can influence cow health – particularly mastitis and hoof health.

Earth, gravel, sand

Earthen surfaces need to be well compacted. Overtime, the surface will develop a compacted layer of manure and soil to form a biological seal – this decreases the infiltration of water.

Stabilisers such as hydrated lime or gypsum can maintain integrity of clay surfaces. Choose gravel and/or coarse sand that will aid compaction – avoid material containing sharp stones

Sub-surface drainage using slotted drainage pipes 1.5-2.0 m apart should be overlaid by 20 cm gravel and can be topped with rice hulls or saw dust if desired.

Geosynthetics

Geosynthetics are thin, flexible and permeable sheets of synthetic material used to stabilize soil. Cheap and resistant to moisture and bacteria, their filtration restricts movement of fine soil particles but allows some water to permeate.

They also reinforce and stabilize soil to decrease compaction by stock.

Concrete

Concrete is hard wearing and with the correct slope, can control drainage well. It is the most expensive option for a feed pad surface. To avoid concrete becoming slippery, score or groove during construction. Strength and thickness recommendations depend on the strength of the sub-base and base materials plus cow numbers.

  • Footings for foundations: N25 concrete
  • Cow and vehicle traffic: N32 concrete
  • Drive alleys: 150 mm thick with SL82 reinforcing mesh in top layer
  • Feed and cow alleys: 100-125 mm thick with SL82 reinforcing mesh in top layer. For further information see: Guidelines for Feedpads and Freestalls