Concrete Lanes Save Cows, Make Money

Mud, mastitis and footrot. That's what you get when you walk 240 cows up and down a dirt lane twice a day to pasture, especially in a rainy area like the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Jon Bansen discovered that the solution is simple but it takes a lot of work. He laid down a narrow concrete path that paid off in many ways.

"We have cleaner cows coming into the parlor, less mastitis, less footrot and better grazing," explains Bansen, a Monmouth, Oregon dairyman. "The cows are able to get to the grass easier in the wet spring, just when the grass is really putting the push on."

Intensive graziers know that if grass is clipped after it heads out, quality and growth will be negatively affected the rest of the season. While mud in the lanes may not stop cattle from getting to pasture, it slows them down and requires time consuming maintenance, not to mention tons of crushed rock. Bansen's concrete lane eliminates the problems and keeps the herd moving. Bansen laid his first 600 ft. of lane in the 1990's. Last year, he poured several hundred feet more and he's planning another 500 ft. this summer.

Construction is simple. He builds 24 in. wide slip-forms out of 2 by 6 lumber and sets them in the ground on one side of his 8-ft. wide lanes. One set of forms will handle a truckload of concrete.

Two lengths of rebar provide extra strength and the 5-in. deep path is surface grooved for better traction. The remainder of the lane is gravel and used primarily as a passing lane. With light use, it requires only minimal repair.

The biggest benefit is animal health.

"So often, the mastitis strains you get from mud are the nasty ones, and you end up culling the cow," says Bansen. "If these lanes save one cow a year, they are worth it."