Waste Management For Equine Facilities

If you own or manage an equestrian property, you may be struggling with waste management problems. The average horse produces approximately 50 pounds of manure each day; that's nine tons a year! Add soiled stall bedding to that, and you're dealing with a significant amount of waste on a daily basis. Here are three options for handling it, along with some general tips for manure management.

Don't Let Manure Sit

Unless you have a large amount of acreage and very few horses, you can't allow manure to sit where the horses leave it in the pasture. While you may know manure attracts flies, it can also attract parasites and rodents. If horses stand in it, it can cause a variety of hoof diseases.

Manure dust can cause respiratory, eye, and allergy problems for humans. Local laws likely mandate the proper removal of horse waste, because it can also affect the quality of natural waterways both near and far from its origin.

Option One: Spread It

Horse manure is a rich combination of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash, so it makes great fertilizer. Make sure you balance any nitrogen leaching, however, if your manure is mixed with wood shavings from the stall.

If you can spread manure right away, it can be beneficial to crops and pasture land. The issue is timing. If you spread it on cropland, you need to time it so it's either right before or right after the growing season.

When laying it on a pasture, it may be some time before your horses can return to it. Consult your veterinarian or local university school of agriculture about how long it takes for parasites in the manure to die off.

Option Two: Compost It

Composting manure in a pile for later use as fertilizer is another option. The heat from the mass of waste kills of parasites faster than they die naturally in spread manure. The manure breaks down over time into usable soil nutrients.

When the compost starts to look like crumbled dirt, it's ready for use. You can put it anywhere fertilizer is needed, including vegetable gardens and flower beds. Of course, you can use it to grow grass for hay making too.

The biggest issue with composting is the amount of time and effort it takes. The manure pile must be turned regularly, and you need to have space to store it where the odor won't be an issue.

Option Three: Haul It

If you don't want to deal with your manure, you can always do what many large equine facilities, like racetracks and showgrounds, do: haul it away. Many waste collection companies will transport it for you. They can dispose of it on their own or even take it to a nearby farm or nursery that can make good use of it.

If you use a waste collection service to dispose of your manure, try to store the manure in a location that's easy for the service to access with large trucks. Set a regular pick-up schedule so the waste doesn't sit for long periods.

Be a Conscientious Equine Owner

As a final note, whichever system you choose for manure management, be an eco-friendly horse owner. Don't allow horses on wetlands or in waterways where their waste could seep into the ground or be carried downstream. Divert rain water away from manure piles, and compost in an elevated area to minimize runoff.

If manure must sit, cover it with a tarp, and invest in a good fly system to keep pests away. Maintain a good deworming program with your horses, and you'll minimize the likelihood of passing on any parasites elsewhere.