An average-sized horse will produce roughly 30 to 40 pounds of manure each day. Manure piles up quickly, even more so if you own multiple horses. Most horse owners will have a designated manure pile somewhere near the barn or pasture, but what do you do with it once it has maxed out in size? We’ve put together a list of the most eco-friendly ways to use or dispose of your horse manure.
Uses For Horse Manure
Composting is a great option to turn your horse manure into a soil enhancer that is packed with great nutrients to nourish the soil. Composting will reduce the need for any commercial fertilizers and can be used for your property or shared with others in need of fertilizer.
You will need to set up a proper composting system, which will involve some upfront costs. This option will require some time and labor on your part but can even be financially rewarding if you choose to sell your composted manure. A proper composting system is essential for killing any parasites or weeds that are within the manure, making it an ideal fertilizer.
2. Spread It Around
You can spread your manure by taking straight from the stalls to the field. This option is best for those with plenty of land that own either a tractor or manure spreader. Over time, the manure spread in the field will break down and become nourishing to the soil. You can also spread the composted manure, but if you’re unable to compost, it can still be spread.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Spreading Manure
You can perform soil tests to see what areas of your land would best be suited for manure. You’ll want to spread it thinly and ensure it will not be in pastures where your horses are currently grazing.
It is ideal to spread your horse manure in spring and summertime when it’s forecast to be dry. Manure will wash away during the rains and it’s not much use to spread when the ground is frozen.
The manure can contain parasite eggs that can survive for weeks, even up to a few months. While it’s safe for unoccupied land, you won’t want your horses ingesting any parasites. It’s also best to avoid areas where water runs, near any local water sources or floodplains to avoid contamination.
If your manure is mixed with sawdust and has not gone through a composting process, you can apply a nitrogen fertilizer before spreading. There are microbes in the sawdust that will draw nitrogen from the soil and stunt any growth and the nitrogen fertilizer will counteract that effect.
3. Haul Away
The easiest option for manure is to haul it away so that others can use it for composting and spreading. Using a dump truck to haul the horse manure off your property may be expensive, but a good idea for those that don’t have the time or equipment to compost or spread the manure themselves.
You can contact other farmers or local environmental agencies to get information on any facilities in the area that will accept truckloads of manure. You may or may not be charged a fee to drop off the manure, but that will depend on the facility.
If you don’t have a truck that can haul the manure, there may be services in your area that will provide the services or even a “roll-off” container for the manure to be kept on your property until it becomes full. Of course, this kind of service will come with fees.
Reasons You’ll Want to Use Your Horse Manure
Properly managing and using your horse manure is important for several reasons. Your horses, your property, and your local environment can all be affected by how you choose to use your manure. We’ll look at some of the factors that go into this:
Water quality. Manure can cause significant damage to nearby water supplies. Contaminants and parasites from improperly disposed of manure can make their way into water sources through runoff from rain. It’s an environmental hazard that is best avoided for the health of both humans and animals.
State/Federal Regulations. There are both federal and state regulations regarding the management of manure and the dangers of contamination of water quality. These regulations are typically geared toward cow farmers and may not always cover horse farms, but it depends on your state. You’ll want to check with your state or even the local county for more information on these kinds of regulations.
Pests and Parasites. A manure pile can become a breeding ground for pests and parasites. The manure can contain parasite eggs and if it’s not properly taken care of, the eggs will hatch and contaminate the field, food, or water sources and make their way to the horses. Manure piles attract several types of flies as well. The flies will use the manure pile as a breeding ground and the pile will quickly become overrun by flies and maggots. It’s also not uncommon for rodents to burrow within the piles.
Property Smell and Aesthetic. A large, ever-growing pile of manure isn’t exactly a pleasant sight for your or your neighbors. The manure will cause a severe smell, not just when it’s fresh but even after it sits for a while and begins to mold. Proper usage of manure can prevent these problems from getting too bad.
You can avoid or at least minimize these problems with a good manure management program. And because horse manure is a source of nutrients for plants, it can be a valuable resource. Managing horse manure can be complex, though, and what works for one barn may not work so well for another. Tailor your program to your situation.
Ultimately, how you use your manure will depend on how many horses you own, how much land you have, your budget, equipment on hand, and spare time you have. You’ll have to investigate your options and decide what works best for you in your situation.
Properly using and managing your manure can prevent several issues. Horse manure can be a wonderful resource for plants when used as fertilizer since it is so rich in nutrients. Whether you choose to compost it, spread it on your land, or have it hauled to be used by others, having a usage plan in place will be great for the environment, your property, and your horses.
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Featured Image Credit: GeorgiaLens, Pixabay
Oliver (Ollie) Jones – A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master’s degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.