Natural Resources Conservation Service
Conservation Practice Standard
HEAVY USE AREA PROTECTION
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 livestock health.
CONDITIONS WHERE PRACTICE APPLIES
This practice applies to urban,
agricultural, recreational, or other frequently and intensively
used areas requiring treatment to address one or more resource
When used on livestock operations, this
practice will be completed as a component of a Comprehensive
Nutrient Management Plan or Prescribed Grazing (Code
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.
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
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
The type of material selected shall be appropriate for the
loading, use, and exposure of the area. Options include:
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
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.
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.
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.
All structures shall be designed according to appropriate NRCS
standards and specifications, Engineering Field Handbook
recommendations, and sound engineering practice(s).
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.
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
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
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.
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
Additional Criteria for
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
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
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.
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
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
that are less than 2 percent or greater than 12 percent, unless
additional lots are added and/or drainage issues are addressed.
in accordance with this standard and Tennessee Conservation
Practice Standard Critical Area Planting (Code 342).
operation and maintenance plan that addresses frequency of lot
rotation, fencing patterns, animal trails and walkways, etc.
alternative watering system that meets the needs of the
rotational schedule and protects water quality.
from all streams, water bodies, and sinkholes.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
of discussions/decisions made with operator/owner.
Type and number of animals, people, and/or
vehicles the Heavy Use Area will serve.
investigation auger logs to determine any special construction
such that an accurate representation of topography and site
conditions may be plotted for the plans and specifications.
The following is a list of the minimum required design data (record on engineering paper or other paper as
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
Plan view of system layout showing extent of work
the area disturbed showing grades and thickness of the base
course and surface treatment, as appropriate.
surface treatment (with material description). Include references
to plans or components supplied by others.
Design of Waste Storage Facility (Code 313) and
other components if required by Comprehensive Nutrient
liming, fertilizing, and mulching requirements according
to Tennessee Conservation Practice Standard Critical Area
Planting (Code 342).
individual work items.
Written operation and maintenance plan.
OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE
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
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
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
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
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
Swisher, Jerry M., Jr., H. E. White, S. B.
Carr. "Dairy Loafing Lot Rotational Management System,"
Publication 404-252. Virginia Cooperative Extension. Reprinted
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.
Turner, Larry W., "Using Geotextiles for
Feeding and Traffic Surfaces." University of Kentucky, AEN-79.