Title: Horse Manure Management--What are Your Options?
Author: Randall Holman [Back to
You need a strategy for using or disposing of your horse's
manure. The proper management of manure is important to the
health of your horse and your family. Needless to say, it may
also be important in order to comply with state or county
regulations. And if you have neighbors nearby, you will want to
avoid any controversy with them.
An average 1,000-pound horse can produce 9 tons of manure waste
each year. This is roughly 50 pounds per day. If you're going to
store it, this translates to about 2-cubic feet per day or
730-cubic feet per year-just from one horse.
How the manure is stored and treated will have an impact on its
value. A composition of manure and bedding is rich in nitrogen,
phosphorous, and potassium. These nutrients can be returned to
the soil and made available to pasture, lawns, landscaping,
crops, and gardens.
The Importance of Manure Management
Stalls and paddocks need manure removed regularly to prevent
surface water contamination and to assist with parasite control
and fly breeding. Stable flies commonly breed in the moist horse
manure. So it makes sense if you want to keep the fly population
down, manage your horse's manure.
The lifecycle of horse parasites also begins with eggs in the
manure, which develop into infective larvae that later exist in
your horse's pasture. Consuming grass, feed, or water
contaminated with infective larvae will infect your horse.
Parasites are one of the most significant threats to the health
of a horse kept in small acreage areas and can cause irreparable
internal damage. Manure management is an important part of
So What Are Your Options for Managing Manure?
Essentially, your choices are to:
Use it on-site
Give it away
Haul it off-site
If you don't plan to use the manure yourself, you should develop
a plan so that other people can make use of it. You may be able
to make arrangements with landscapers, nursery or garden
centers, parks and neighbors to either buy your unprocessed or
composted manure or take it off your hands for free. You may
need to deliver the manure yourself.
Typical management of horse manure consists of removing daily
and stockpiling for later use or spreading on cropland.
Manure that is spread daily should be thinly distributed and
chain harrowed (dragged) to breakup larger manure piles and to
expose parasite eggs to the elements, and to encourage rapid
drying. Don't spread on pastureland that will be grazed by
horses during the current year.
Alternatively, manure may be stockpiled and allowed to
accumulate until it can be disposed, or composted for later use.
A large storage area will allow for better flexibility in timing
of manure use.
A 144 square foot enclosed space will contain the manure from
one horse for a year. Over time, manure shrinks from
decomposition and may accumulate to 3-to-5 feet in deep. Your
storage area should be easily accessible for loading and
The location for the storage area is important in order to
safeguard against surface and groundwater contamination. The
storage area should be at least 150 feet away from surface water
(creeks and ponds) and wells. A perimeter ditch dug around the
storage area may be needed to prevent runoff. Covering the
storage with either a roof or tarp can help prevent the
contamination of both groundwater and surface water.
Some of the newer bedding products are more absorbent allowing
you to use less bedding than traditional straw. Using less
bedding means you have less waste to manage. Also, don't use too
much bedding and only use the amount necessary to soak up urine
and moisture in order to reduce the amount you have to manage.
Composting manure for 6 months to a year will yield a relatively
dry product that is easily handled and reduces the volume of the
manure by as much as 40 to 60 percent. This also kills fly eggs,
larvae, pathogens and weed seeds.
Aeration will speed the composting process. The rate of
decomposition is dependent on how often the pile is turned. An
alternative to turning the pile is to insert perforated PVC
pipes into the pile to provide aeration. The composting process
will take a little longer, but is much less labor intensive. A
slow decomposition rate is usually due to a lack of aeration.
The compost pile should remain moist. It may need to be watered
or covered to maintain moisture. If small moisture droplets
appear when squeezing it in your hand, then the moisture content
is sufficient. Compost should be sweet smelling. If an
unpleasant odor is coming from the pile, it is too wet and
should be kept under a cover to help keep the moisture out.
Composted manure acts as a slow release fertilizer and is a
great soil supplement that can be spread on pastures. Manure
that has not been composted should be spread only on cropland or
other ungrazed, vegetated areas.
Landfills should only be used if no other option exists. And
note, not all landfills will accept manure. Remember, your
horse's manure is a valuable resource and is best used for
recycling as opposed to disposing.
There are some refuse/waste companies who specialize in hauling
away manure as well as recycle it. This is a good alternative
for people who do not have adequate land where manure can be
stored or spread. These refuse companies will provide a dumpster
and will schedule regular pickups based on your needs.
About the author:
Randall Holman, site owner of Front Range Frenzy and horse
enthusiast, is the author of this article. You will find other
easy and practical basic horse care information on his website:
Opinions expressed in articles on this website are those of the author(s)
of each story or article and not necessarily those of Shadow
Ridge. Shadow Ridge does not necessarily agree with, support, or
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