Madison County Soil Conservation District 

Serving to Conserve Madison County's Soil & Related Natural Resources Since 1941

Home Up Outreach Programs Our Soil Our Water Plants & Animals Site Map Helpful Links

Heavy Use Area



Natural Resources Conservation Servicee

Conservation Practice Standard



Code 561



The stabilization of areas frequently and intensively used by people, animals, or vehicles by establishing vegetative cover, surfacing with suitable materials, and/or installing needed structures.


This practice may be used as a part of a conservation management system to support one or more of the following purposes.

·         Reduce soil erosion.

·         Improve water quantity and quality.

·         Improve air quality.

·         Improve aesthetics.

·         Improve livestock health.


This practice applies to urban, agricultural, recreational, or other frequently and intensively used areas requiring treatment to address one or more resource concerns.

When used on livestock operations, this practice will be completed as a component of a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan or Prescribed Grazing (Code 528A).

This practice does not apply to Conservation Practice Standards Access Road (Code 560 or Critical Area Planting (Code 342).


Criteria Applicable to All Purposes

All planned work shall comply with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

Drainage and Erosion Control.  Provision shall be made for surface and subsurface drainage, as needed, and for disposal of runoff without causing erosion or water quality impairment.  Provision shall be made to exclude unpolluted run-on water from the treatment area.  All treatment areas shall be shaped to prevent ponding of water.

Foundation.  All site foundations shall be evaluated for soil moisture, permeability, texture, and bearing strength in combination with the design load and anticipated frequency of use. 

Areas to be treated shall be excavated with special attention to providing vertical edges around the perimeter.

A base course of gravel, crushed stone, other suitable material, and/or geotextile shall be provided on all sites with a need for increased load bearing strength, drainage, separation of material and soil reinforcement.

An impervious barrier shall be provided on sites with a porous foundation (high permeability rate), where there is a need to protect ground water from contamination.

Foundation preparation shall consist of removal and disposal of soil and other material that are not adequate to support the design loads.

Filter Fabric.  A nonwoven needle-punched geotextile fabric with a minimum tensile strength of 150 lbs. and minimum weight of 6 ounces per square yard shall be installed under all treatment areas, unless foundation is on rock or the surface treatment is concrete.  A minimum overlap of geotextile panels without sewing shall be 12 inches at all joints.


Surface Treatment.  The type of material selected shall be appropriate for the loading, use, and exposure of the area.  Options include: 

§  Concrete.  Thickness shall be a minimum of 4 inches for livestock traffic or 5 inches where equipment loading is expected. Compressive strength of concrete after 28 days curing shall be 3,500 psi.  Welded wire mesh, 6” x 6” x 10/10 gauge,  reinforcing shall be used in the slab.  If welded wire fabric is omitted from concrete slabs and only fiber additives are used, contraction joint spacing will be reduced from a maximum of 30 feet to a maximum of 10 feet in any direction.  Sawn joints shall be one-fourth of the slab's thickness in depth.  Formed joints shall be of a keyway type.  Smooth vertical joints through the slab are not permitted.  Fiber shall consist of 3/4" length virgin homopolymer polypropylene fibers, either the collated fibrillated or monofilament type.  The minimum rate of application is 1.5 lbs. of fiber per cubic yard of concrete.

§  Bituminous Pavement (Asphalt).   The thickness of the pavement course, the kind and size of aggregate, the type of proportioning of bituminous materials, and the mixing and placing of these materials shall be in accordance with Tennessee Department of Transportation criteria for the expected loading.

§  Aggregate.  Coarse aggregate shall be 2½ inches to ¾ inch in size.  Fine aggregate can range from ¾ inch to No. 200 (1/200 inch). Sufficient fines (size No. 100 or less) shall be present in the fine aggregate to promote bonding of the material when compacted.  Aggregate (fine or coarse) shall be underlain by nonwoven geotextile.  Figure 1 specifies the requirements for two-layer pads. The layer can consist of 6 to 8 inches of compacted fine aggregate material.


Figure 1:


§  Other Cementitious Materials.  Soil cement, roller compacted concrete, and coal combustion by-products (flue gas desulfurization sludge and fly ash) may be used as surface material, if designed and installed to withstand the anticipated loads and surface abrasion.

Other Treatment.  Where other surfacing materials are used, such as cinders, tree bark, sawdust, brick chips, shredded rubber, etc., the minimum thickness shall be 6 inches and shall be renewed as animals remove the surface.

Structures.  All structures shall be designed according to appropriate NRCS standards and specifications, Engineering Field Handbook recommendations, and sound engineering practice(s).

Vegetative Measures.  Bermuda and/or tall fescue mixtures shall be established and managed according to the Conservation Practice Standard Critical Area Planting (Code 342).  Bermuda shall be established first between May 1 and July 1.  Tall fescue shall be established between August 15 and October 15.  If bermuda is dense, establish tall fescue at the end of recommended seeding date.  If vegetation is not appropriate, other measures shall be used to prevent erosion.

Additional Criteria for Agricultural Areas

Where lanes or travel ways are planned that facilitate animal movement, Animal Trails and Walkways (Code 575) and/or Stream Crossing (Code 576) shall be used.  Where access roads are planned to facilitate heavy equipment, Access Road (Code 560) shall be used.

Additional Criteria for Winter Feeding Heavy Use Areas

Strategies to unroll hay, rotate hay rings across the field, or feed in remote field locations when opportunities exist for field access by equipment shall be considered before installing heavy use areas for feeding.

Location.  Heavy use area (HUA) winter feeding areas shall be located adjacent to all-weather access roads.  HUA winter feeding areas shall be located outside of floodplains.  If site restrictions require location within the floodplain, heavy use areas shall be protected from inundation or damage from a 25-year, 24-hour storm event.

Sensitive Areas.  Any part of the HUA feeding area located upslope and within 300 feet of a sensitive area (water source, water conveyance, or sinkhole) shall have one or both of the following installed:

Ø  A minimum 35-foot filter strip established and maintained adjacent to the water source, water conveyance, or sinkhole.  The filter strip shall be established and maintained in permanent vegetation in accordance with Filter Strip (Code 393) or Riparian Forest Buffer (Code 391); and/or

Ø  A fence constructed in such a way that livestock must travel a minimum of 50 feet from the edge of the HUA across the slope before being able to turn down the slope to the sensitive area(s) (see Figure 2). The fence must be located within 2 feet of the HUA and a minimum of 70 feet from the sensitive area.  The area below the fence shall be maintained in permanent vegetation. The fence shall be installed in accordance with Fence (Code 382).

Size - Non-confined.  The size of HUA feeding areas can range from 50 to 100 square feet per animal (1,000 lbs.) in non-confinement.  The maximum size of an HUA shall not exceed 2,800 square feet.  Where concrete is used as the surface treatment, an additional minimum 4-foot wide aggregate transition area not to exceed 10 feet wide shall be provided around the HUA.  If the herd is maintained in groups on separate parts of the farm and fields, then more than one HUA may be installed.  A combination of HUA's on the farm shall not exceed 100 square feet per animal (1,000 lbs.).

Size - Confined.  Animals confined a total of 45 days (1,080 hours) during a 12-month period on an area are considered confined.  An example would be dairy cows confined 4 hours per day times 365 = 1,460 hours.  This represents a confined operation.  The size of the HUA can range from 100 to 200 square feet per animal (1,000 lbs.) in confinement.  An HUA designed for animals confined must include provisions for developing a manure and wastewater handling and storage component of a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP). 

Slope.  HUA feeding areas shall be constructed on relatively level areas.  They shall be mounded with slopes away from feeders a minimum of ¼ to ½ inch per foot.  See Figure 3.

If the wasted feed in combination with the manure lack the properties that promote stacking, then a storage facility shall be installed and managed in accordance with Waste Storage Facility (Code 313). 

Storage and Stacking.  When manure and wasted hay/feed is removed from the HUA, it shall be stored or stacked until spreading can occur.  For confined operations, storage shall occur in accordance with development of a CNMP.  For non-confined operations where manure and wasted hay/feed have the consistency to stack, it shall be stacked in a position higher than the area around it for a period not to exceed 30 days.  If a longer period is needed, a cover or storage facility shall be utilized in accordance with Waste Field Storage (Code 749) or Waste Storage Facility (Code 313).   If the manure and wasted hay/feed do not have the consistency to stack, then it shall be stored in a storage facility in accordance with Waste Storage Facility (Code 313).  Manure mixed with appropriate amounts of wasted hay/feed or dried will exhibit material with 20 percent or greater solids content that can be stacked.  A minimum 100-foot vegetative buffer will be maintained below the stacking area for the duration of winter.


Maintenance.  The HUA feeding area shall be maintained to achieve the intended purpose. Manure and wasted hay/feed shall be scraped from the HUA when accumulation of the manure and wasted hay/feed is 6 inches or greater.  When spreading occurs, maintain a 35-foot non-application setback from all sensitive areas such as water sources, water conveyances, and sinkholes.  Spreading shall occur as soon as field conditions exist for land application by equipment and at periods when crops are actively growing.  When re-vegetation is necessary, follow criteria for Vegetative Measures.


Additional Criteria for Gate HUA

Heavy use areas shall be mounded and extend a minimum of 3 feet beyond the edges of the gate opening and extend in all directions as shown in Figure 4.  The shape of the HUA is optional. 

Additional Criteria for Watering Facility HUA

For areas such as watering facilities or mineral boxes (see Figure 5), the treatment area shall extend a minimum of 10 feet to a maximum of 16 feet outside the limits of the water facility and should be mounded.   A freeze-proof watering facility shall be anchored to a concrete pad.

 Any part of the HUA water facility located upslope and within 50 feet of a sensitive area (water source, water conveyance, or sinkhole) shall have measures installed to maintain a vegetative buffer between the water facility and sensitive area.  The width of the buffer adjacent to the sensitive area shall be at least 20 feet.

Livestock watering access ramps into water sources shall be fenced and installed in accordance with drawing HUA-561-1 or STR-578-1.  The area around the water source shall be protected from access by livestock.

Additional Criteria for Grassed Loafing Lot HUA

Grassed loafing lots are intended for vegetative cover, not grazing.  Refer to NRCS conservation practice standard, Prescribed Grazing (528A), to develop a prescribed grazing plan.  Establish grassed loafing lots as follows:

1.     Establish a minimum of four grassed lots.  Grassed lots should be sized at no smaller than one acre per 20 cows except on favorable sites.  Up to 30 cows may be considered, provided the site has adequate soil fertility, favorable slopes, and four or more lots are planned.

2.     Avoid slopes that are less than 2 percent or greater than 12 percent, unless additional lots are added and/or drainage issues are addressed.

3.     Vegetate lots in accordance with this standard and Tennessee Conservation Practice Standard Critical Area Planting (Code 342).

4.     Develop an operation and maintenance plan that addresses frequency of lot rotation, fencing patterns, animal trails and walkways, etc.

5.     Provide an alternative watering system that meets the needs of the rotational schedule and protects water quality.

6.     Fence cattle from all streams, water bodies, and sinkholes.

7.     Maintain a minimum 30-foot grass buffer between grassed loafing lots and streams, unless the runoff is collected and managed by a method outlined in the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan.  This buffer shall be designed in accordance with the Tennessee Conservation Practice Standard Filter Strip (Code 393).

Fence.  Fencing shall be installed as necessary to control all animal traffic.  Fencing shall be built in accordance with Tennessee Conservation Practice Standard Fence (Code 382).  Alternative fencing procedures that provide permanent and positive control may be approved on a case-by-case basis.

Additional Criteria for Recreational HUA

The treated area shall be conducive to the overall recreation area and aesthetically blend with the general landscape and surroundings.

Plants, landscaping timbers, traffic control measures, wooden walkways, etc., shall be evaluated for effectiveness, aesthetics, and accessibility as covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Consider strategies to unroll hay, rotate hay rings across the field, or feed in remote field locations when opportunities exist for field access by equipment.

Consider placing heavy use areas where access is to multiple pastures.

Consider forage systems that provide grazing that reduces feeding to 90 days or less.

Consideration will be given to the location, distance, and gradient to streams, sinkholes, and well heads relative to the proposed site.  Depth to bedrock, aquifer flow characteristics, animal traffic patterns, animal density, type of maintenance, proximity to neighbors, prevailing winds, visual effects, operation and maintenance cost, and local, state, and federal regulations will also be considered.

For areas with aggregate surfaces that will be frequently scraped, consideration should be given to the use of concrete or cementitious materials to lessen the recurring cost of aggregate replacement.

The stabilizing material should be selected considering the intended use, desired maintenance frequency, and runoff control. 

For urban and recreational areas, traffic control plants, landscaping timbers, wooden walkways, etc., should be evaluated for effectiveness and aesthetics.

Consider the increase in the amount and peak rate of runoff due to the construction of a more impervious surface.  Consideration should be given to measures that will reduce the peak discharge rates, if these rates can cause damage to the receiving areas.

Consider the effects on the erosion and the movement of sediment, animal waste, and soluble and sediment‑attached substances carried by runoff.

Consider the effects of changes in surface and ground water caused by introduction of fertilizer for vegetated areas, and oils and chemicals associated with concrete and asphalt placement and other construction activities.

There may be changes in surface water caused by the surfacing of concentrated livestock areas.  Provisions should be made to collect and/or treat all waste from runoff per the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan.


Plans and specifications for heavy use area protection shall be in keeping with this standard and shall describe the requirements for applying the practice to achieve its intended purpose.

All required smoothing, grading, or leveling shall be completed prior to the start of the surfacing operations.  All components of the completed structure shall comply with cross-sections, lines, grades, dimensions, and material specifications shown on the plans.

Supporting Data and Documentation

Components are to be designed according to sound engineering practices and in accordance with NRCS conservation practice standards and specifications and the Engineering Field Handbook.

Plans, specifications, and reports shall be approved by an individual with appropriate job approval authority and shall include:

Field Data and Survey Notes:

1.     Documentation of discussions/decisions made with operator/owner.

2.     Type and number of animals, people, and/or vehicles the Heavy Use Area will serve.

3.     Soils investigation auger logs to determine any special construction needs.

4.     Surveying data such that an accurate representation of topography and site conditions may be plotted for the plans and specifications.

Design Data:

The following is a list of the minimum required design data (record on engineering paper or other paper as appropriate):

1.     Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan describing type of treatment planned for waste storage and/or disposal, if such a plan is necessary (see Additional Criteria for Agricultural Areas).

2.     Plan view of system layout showing extent of work area.

3.     Profiles of the area disturbed showing grades and thickness of the base course and surface treatment, as appropriate.

4.     Description of surface treatment (with material description).  Include references to plans or components supplied by others.

5.     Design of Waste Storage Facility (Code 313) and other components if required by Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan.

6.     Runoff treatment design.

7.     Area grading plan.

8.     Seeding, liming, fertilizing, and mulching requirements according to Tennessee Conservation Practice Standard Critical Area Planting (Code 342).

9.     Quantities for individual work items.
Written operation and maintenance plan.


The Operation and Maintenance (O&M) plan shall specify that the treatment areas and associated practices will be inspected annually and after significant storm events to identify repair and maintenance needs.

The O&M plan shall contain the operational requirements for managing the heavy use area.   Planned scraping intervals, replacement of fine material, storage, treatment, and/or utilization methods will also be described.  Provisions for re-establishment of vegetated areas will be included.

The O&M plan shall detail the level of repairs needed to maintain the effectiveness and useful life of the practice.

If using a front-end loader, recommend back dragging the manure/hay to conserve removal of gravel from the surface.  Consider using fabricated large equipment tire for scraping surface.

The O&M plan shall be provided to, and discussed with, the operator.  The O&M plan must complement the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan, as necessary.


American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

American Concrete Institute.  ACI 360, Design of Slabs-on-Grade.

Midwest Plan Service, Structures and Environment Handbook.  Revised 1987.

Midwest Plan Service. "Using All-Weather Geotextile Lanes and Pads," Agricultural Engineers Digest, AED 45. July 1999.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook.  April 1992.

NRCS Experiences from Field Offices in Tennessee (Sevier, Putnam, Overton, Grundy, White, Clay, Jackson, Giles, Lawrence, and Coffee Counties).

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Field Office Technical Guide, Section IV, NRCS Conservation Practice Standards:

§  Animal Trails and Walkways, Code 575

§  Fence, Code 382

§  Filter Strip, Code 393

§  Nutrient Management, Code 590

§  Prescribed Grazing, Code 528A        

§  Riparian Forest Buffer, Code 391

§  Stream Crossing (Interim), Code 576

§  Waste Field Storage (Interim), Code 749

§  Wastewater Treatment Strip, Code 635

§  Waste Storage Facility, Code 313

§  Waste Utilization, Code 633

NRCS National Engineering Field Handbook Series

Swisher, Jerry M., Jr., H. E. White, S. B. Carr.  "Dairy Loafing Lot Rotational Management System," Publication 404-252.  Virginia Cooperative Extension.  Reprinted 1994.

Swisher, Jerry M., Jr., "Nutrient Management Using Intensively Managed Loafing Lots on Dairies," 1998.

Tennessee Department of Transportation.   Standard Specifications for Road and Bridge Construction. 1995.

Turner, Larry W., "Using Geotextiles for Feeding and Traffic Surfaces." University of Kentucky, AEN-79.  August 1997.

May 2003




Copyright © 2019 - Madison County SCD All Rights Reserved  -  This site was last updated: March 27, 2019  -   Contact the Webmaster   -   Policy Statements


    Madison County Soil Conservation District    -    313 North Parkway    -   Jackson, Tennessee 38305   -  (731) 668-1544 ext. 3   -   FAX: 1-855-584-5847