Current methods for tracking pathogens across farmland and into surrounding waterways via runoff are limited and typically have been developed using artificially created landscapes. No studies have investigated how Giardia in farm runoff moves across the landscape, despite high prevalence rates in dairy cattle (Bos taurus) worldwide. Here, we report the development of a field-based tracking method specific for Giardia movement in runoff and use this technique to compare the pathogen reduction capability of recently planted vegetation strips with bare soil strips cleared of vegetation. Such scenarios represent typical events in schemes to plant vegetation barriers aimed at reducing waterway contamination. A significant treatment effect was identified, with 26% fewer Giardia detected in runoff collected from the planted strip (P = 0.006). These results highlight the immediate benefit of pathogen removal to be gained from vegetation planting. The successful discrimination of treatment effects by this new technique will enable the assessment of different vegetation types on runoff reduction and the effects of plant development over time.