Diverting Runoff from Farm Tracks


Roads and tracks on farms are often areas of high nutrient, sediment, and microbial accumulation and are susceptible to erosion and contaminant loss. They produce runoff much faster than the surrounding landscape.

A good track has the following attributes:

  • Tracks need to be wide enough for stock to move without being pressured.
  • As short as possible.
  • Distraction free. Distractions on the track will lead to stock stopping to look, potentially slowing traffic.
  • Make sure the track is well fenced from the drains. Good fencing can prolong the life of a track.
  • Has good paddock access. Access in and out of paddocks shouldn’t be narrower than the track or there will be bottlenecks. Put in double gates to avoid wear and tear and muddy areas.
  • Has a good surface. Make sure the track has a good surface and appropriate camber. Tracks can’t be too muddy, uneven, or stony or have too much slope or it will affect the stocks’ ability and desire to use it.


Using tractors or holding stock on tracks can lift and rut the surface. Potholes will trap water and turn the surface layer into slurry and the base layer into a bog.

Tracks and raceways can channel effluent and sediment into waterways. It’s important to maintain edges to keep nutrients on the farm and out of streams and rivers. Removing the raised edges that build up along the sides of tracks allows runoff to flow into adjacent paddocks. The pasture then acts as a filter, removing and using the nutrients for growth.

Cows walking on a muddy farm track.
Tracks can channel effluent into waterways.
Image source: Dairy NZ


McDowell, R. W., Nash, D., George, A., Wang, Q. J., & Duncan, R. (2009). Approaches for quantifying and managing diffuse phosphorus exports at the farm/small catchment scale. Journal of Environmental Quality, 38(5), 1968-1980.

Monaghan, R. M., & Smith, L. C. (2012). Contaminant losses in overland flow from dairy farm laneways in southern New Zealand. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 159, 170-175.