Now as the weather conditions improve, farmers will be eager to crack on with field work and maintenance.

The volume of rainfall that has fallen in recent months has not only caused a delay in grazing, but also a delay in these necessary repairs.

Farm roadways are an essential tool in the belt of grazing farmers for animal and machinery access to paddocks and to increase utilisation of grazed grass.

The rainfall over the past few months may also have had a negative effect on roadway conditions causing the removal of the smooth top layer of material or an increase in potholes formed. Some of the key areas that require attention are listed below.

Repairing an existing roadway

Roadways should be repaired as necessary, with maintenance required annually or bi-annually. Particular attention needs to go to the most used areas of the roadway; the first 50-100 metres near the parlour or farmyard.

Where it is found that this area is particularly hard to keep clean, then considerations should be given to concreting this area. Caution needs to be taken when this is done, as small stones can be dragged on to the concrete from gravel roads.

When a cow steps on a stone sitting on concrete, the stone can be driven up in to the cow’s hoof. Frequent sweeping of the concreted section, or a kerb to force cows to raise their feet before stepping on to the concrete, needs to be completed.

The most common roadway repairs necessary are blinding off rough areas, filling potholes and drainage of roadways. Grass verges along the edge of roads should be cleaned off to allow the road to drain into the field.

Where roadways are lower than the field, then it will have to be raised to allow drainage.

Potholes are generally caused by sitting water, and while a road may sit higher than the adjacent field, a crossfall from the centre from one side to the other is required to keep water from puddling.

Generally, a thin layer of 8-0-4 type material (small broken stone with ‘’fat’’ running through it) can be used to bring up the road level to height. The road should slope to one or both sides, with a slope of 1:25/ 2.3° recommended and finished off with a suitable surface material and compacted.

Quarry dust should be applied and rolled on to any rougher areas at a thickness of 50-60m, and should not have pebbles larger than 5-6mm in it.

Runoff to streams and channel creation

While livestock prefer a roadway that cambers from the middle, where there is a risk of runoff in to any watercourses, the cambering of slopes from the centre of the road must not be adopted. As part of changes to the Nitrates laws which came in to effect in 2021, farmers must ensure that roadways running alongside watercourses camber away from the watercourse, with soiled water directed to the field. If you haven’t already completed this action, then it should be done immediately.

Roadways on steeply sloping ground have suffered badly over the last few months, as streams of water have flown downhill, gathering enough power to remove the top layer of finer materials from roadways and exposing the rougher base layers.

Where this has happened, the finer material should be replaced and angled ramps installed to prevent build-up of soiled water on the roadway.

Shallow channels or cut-off drains at intervals across the roadway and in to the field will divert water off the road before it builds up volume and momentum.

Extending roadway widths

As herds have grown in recent years, the same roadways may still be in use and may require widening to function to optimal levels. Guidance on standard sizes of roadways depending on herd size is given in Table 1.

The fence should be positioned about 0.5m from the edge of the roadway. This will allow livestock to utilise the full width of the roadway, while at the same time prevent them from walking along the grass margin.

Cows walking in grass margins either on the edges or the centre of the road may indicate poor roadway surfaces.

Costs of repair

Teagasc estimates that a 4.0m wide roadway, with 0.3m depth of 8-0-4 material will need one 25 tonne load to cover each 9-11metres in length. This assumes a density of about 2 tonnes per m3 for the material used.

A similar sized load would cover 60-65 metres with a 50mm surface layer, for example quarry dust for blinding off.

The price of road making material, both crushed stone and dust for the surface, is between €9 and €12 plus VAT/tonne, depending on supplier.

Digger hire for a 13-tonne machine will cost in the region of €40-€50 + VAT per hour, while most farmers will provide their own tractor and a trailer for drawing of materials.

A vibrating roller should be used to help seal the quarry dust, and will cost €100-€150 per day depending on size.

TAMS aid

TAMS III came with the announcement last year that new farm roadways would now be grant aided, with a reference cost of €24.90/linear metre. As roadways are a permanent, fixed structure, planning permission is required in full before submitting an application.

Upgrades to existing roadways are not covered in TAMS. The rate includes all necessary materials, aggregates and construction costs.