Horse Manure Management
By Eleanor Blazer
Horses produce a lot of manure.
According to Colorado State University a 1,000-pound horse will produce about 40-plus pounds of manure per day, plus another possible 50 pounds in soaked bedding. The majority of this weight is moisture.
Cleaning stalls and then stockpiling the manure with plans to remove it later is the most common method of disposal. The drawback with this plan is the unsightly pile, flies, odor, run-off and complaints from the neighbors.
When deciding where to put the manure, consider possible contamination of water (ponds, creeks and wells). A 50-foot grass buffer strip is recommended between the pile and water sources.
A manure pile holding area can be helpful. This structure features a concrete floor; berms that offer drainage control and walls that will keep the pile in one spot. The walls also help with the aesthetics of the stable.
Once the pile reaches immense proportions (or the neighbors start to complain) it’s time to get rid of the pile.
The easiest way to get rid of the manure is spreading it on your own land. This requires a tractor, manure spreader, a front-end loader (or a strong back and manure fork) and land.
There are some drawbacks to spreading raw manure and bedding on your land.
Horses will not eat grass that has manure on it.
If there are weed seeds in the material you will be planting your pastures or fields with weeds. It is also possible you will be spreading internal parasites to your pastures (a good de-worming program is mandatory).
If the manure is mixed with sawdust or wood shavings, the grass or crop in the field will be stunted. The high carbon content of shavings requires nitrogen to break down. This depletes the nitrogen in the soil required by desirable plants. You can add nitrogen in the form of ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate fertilizer at the rate of ˝ cup per day to 40 to 50 pounds of manure. Treat it as you take it from the stall. Just sprinkle it on the manure mixture after it’s been loaded in the wheelbarrow or spreader. Do not use urea fertilizer because the nitrogen can be lost into the air.
Be careful you do not spread too much manure on a field or pasture. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for assistance. They can conduct soil tests to determine how much you can spread without creating a problem. It is possible to over-fertilize.
Composting manure is the best method. Composting can be time-consuming and it takes planning, but the advantages far out-weigh the effort.
Composting will eliminate the carbon to nitrogen ratio unbalance. It reduces the total amount that needs to be dispersed and concentrates the beneficial nutrients. The heat generated by composting kills parasites, bacteria and insect eggs. Fully composted manure will not attract adult flies. Plus composted manure is easy to get rid of….people love it for their gardens.
Another option to get rid of the manure pile is to pay a farmer or commercial hauler to remove it.
Do not fill in low areas with manure. It is organic, and when wet will turn into a bog. The bacteria and parasites it contains create unsanitary conditions. Make sure you remove manure from your turn-out area, dry-lot or riding arena and preserve the good footing you have provided for your horse.
* Earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Equine Studies, an Associate of Arts Degree in Equine Business Management, or certification as a Professional Horse Trainer, Riding Instructor or Stable Manager. Go to www.horsecoursesonline.com and get started today!
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Visit Eleanor's web site at www.thewayofhorses.com
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