Take care when constructing concrete walking areas for animals. Concrete serves dairy producers well as a material that is durable and economical. It can conform to irregular places and be given a surface that provides cattle adequate traction. Unfortunately, concrete surfaces often end up being too rough, too slippery, too irregular or too level to provide adequate drainage.

Confident and comfortable footing can be achieved with a well-finished concrete floor that is properly grooved. According to Curt Gooch, an agricultural engineer at Cornell University, the end result should be a floor with the following characteristics:

1. Flat surface between grooves
2. Smooth surface between grooves
3. Proper groove width spacing and depth
4. Smooth groove edges with a right angle between the groove and the floor surface

In addition, grooves should allow liquid to drain continuously away from walking surface (similar to tile drainage in a field) when the floor is sloped 0.5 to 3 percent in the direction of manure collection.

For mature cattle, grooves should be 0.375 inch to .5 inch wide and deep. Space parallel grooves 2 to 3 inches apart on center (see Figure 1*). Space grooves in a diamond pattern 4 inches on center. Parallel grooves (in direction of the alley) are suitable in areas where the majority of cow traffic is in one direction (e.g., alleys and holding areas). Consider a diamond pattern in turning areas and cross alleys, where traction is more likely needed in all directions.


Grooving the concrete when it is wet is possible; however, the contractor should be skilled and have practical experience in order to achieve the characteristics described above. Weather (temperature and humidity), the timing of delivery and time pressure are outside the contractor’s control and may create conditions that are less than ideal for grooving.

Contractors attempting to groove wet concrete should be familiar with proper techniques and use the desired characteristics above to monitor performance.

A better way to ensure you get the surface you need is to have the grooves cut after the initial curing. According to one company’s recommendation, grooves should be cut after 14 days of curing. Although it may cost more, cutting grooves provides the following benefits:

•The concrete contractor can concentrate on placing, screeding and floating the concrete with the proper grade and putting on a smooth or light broom finish. There will be less chance of having “birdbath” depressions in the floor if the contractor is allowed to focus on this part of the job.

•The desired characteristics listed above should be easily obtained with less variability. Before allowing cows on any new concrete, take the following advice:

–Remove any sharp, rough edges (scrape with steel blade before concrete fully cures or drag concrete slab or block over surface several times).

–Clean the entire surface with a power broom to remove loose concrete and debris.

–Let concrete cure at least seven days to minimize adverse reactions from traffic on the new concrete.

Do the proper planning to ensure your animal walking surfaces end up with the desired characteristics. Discuss the project with your contractor, and do not take anything for granted. PD

—From Lewis County Ag Digest, Vol. 12, Issue 5

Figure omitted but is available upon request to editor@progressivedairy.com.

Frans Vokey, Dairy Science and Farm Business Management, Cornell University