Skip to main content

Tracks and raceways

Well-designed and maintained tracks and raceways are one of the secrets to a productive farm business. They make it quicker and easier to get around the farm, reduce wear and tear on farm vehicles, and help prevent lameness in stock. Good tracks and raceways also improve water quality by keeping dirty run off out of waterways.

Photograph of kids skateboarding along a raceOn this page: Controlling run off, track and raceway design, culverts and spillways, maintenance, , find out more

 Poorly designed and poorly maintained tracks and raceways can act like the spouting on a roof. They can collect and channel runoff into the nearest waterway. Runoff from these surfaces can contain sediment, nutrients and effluent, which can damage waterways.

Good tracks and raceways make it quicker and easier to get around the farm - saving time. For example, one farmer estimates that being able to travel an extra kilometre per hour faster saves him up to 60 hours of driving time per year. A good track surface also reduces the wear and tear on farm vehicles, saving on maintenance.

Having the right track surface and width helps prevent stock lameness. Dairy cow lameness can cause production losses of up to $200 per cow in the first 10 to 12 weeks of the milking season.

Controlling run off

Carefully directing run off saves both time and money. For example, by carefully maintaining track water tables (open drains), one Matamata farmer hasn't needed to use a digger on his races in 12 years.

Well-designed raceways divert run off water into paddocks, preventing the track from channelling and eroding.

Slightly round or crown the surface of tracks and raceways so water runs off the track. Remove the ‘lip’ or raised edges that build up along the sides of tracks and raceways so runoff flows into neighbouring paddocks. The pasture then acts as a filter, removing and using contaminants from the runoff for growth. This keeps nutrients on the farm and out of:

  • waterways, for example, streams and rivers
  • drains that flow into waterways.

Find out more about the effects of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus on waterways.

Track and raceway design

Designing farm tracks and raceways that have a low impact on the environment often makes good business sense. Careful planning helps you get it right first time, reducing maintenance in the long-term.

When designing tracks and raceways think about the best route for farm needs and the environment. Keeping gradients gentle helps reduce runoff speed and erosion. Locating tracks away from steep sidlings will reduce the need for cuts and fills.

Other things to consider include:

  • whether the main use will be stock movement or vehicle access, which affects wear and the type of surface you’ll need
  • how to get water off the track without directing it straight into waterways.

Reduce the impact of building new tracks and raceways on the environment by carrying out earthworks in drier seasons (summer and autumn) to minimise sediment loss and scouring.

Choose a wear surface for your tracks that’s comfortable to drive on and appropriate to stock – depending on your main track use. The right wear surface helps reduce your travelling time and maintenance, and prevents stock lameness. Keeping stock off heavy vehicle tracks prevents erosion and reduces maintenance.

Guidelines for earthworks, tracking and crossings

Find out more about our requirements for earthworks operations, as well as principles and guidelines for erosion control structures and methods.

Culverts and spillways

Using an undersized culvert is a common mistake. It may appear to save money in the short-term, but if the culvert fails, replacing it could cost up to four times more than the initial savings.

As a rough guide, the larger the catchment area, the steeper the catchment, or higher the likelihood of high intensity storms – the bigger the culvert needs to be.

It may be uneconomic to size a culvert to cope with an extreme flood without over-topping. Providing a wide, level, grassed spillway to one side of the culvert helps prevent scouring in flood events, especially with pumice and other erodable soils.

If you want to install a culvert in a river or stream bed, see our Farmer's guide to permitted activities. If the proposed crossing does not comply with permitted activity conditions, you will need a resource consent. Find out about resource consents in our region.

Help whitebait and other fish, by providing fish access through culverts.


Have a ‘little bit and often’ approach to maintenance. Carry a spade on the farm bike so you can clean out cut-offs and culverts and remove shoulders on the wear surface to help prevent scouring. Fill potholes as they appear to help stop them becoming an expensive problem later.

Carry out preventative maintenance on a seasonal basis. Get your tracks 'up to scratch' before the winter rain arrives.

Use lighter vehicles like quad bikes where you can, especially in winter. When you need to use heavier vehicles, drive slowly and carefully. It'll minimise damage to the surface of your tracks and races.

Attend to storm damage as soon as possible to avoid further damage. Only do temporary repairs if you're not able to do the job properly straight away.

Find out more

Good tracks and raceways are only part of the picture when protecting waterways on your farm. Find out more about fencing drains, seeps and wetlands and fencing streams and rivers.