Noble Life

Manure Management

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All those that love and want horses in their life understand why manure control, although not glamorous or easy, is a requirement. It’s an essential part of barn management.

Stalls need to be mucked out daily, outdoor shelter and small paddocks should be cleaned at least weekly and there is always the piles of manure that are deposited in the barn aisle or grooming area during daily use. Most stables use wheelbarrows to transport the muck to a designated manure pile for temporary storage.

A 1,000 lb. horse can produce an average of 45 pounds of manure per day, needing about 12 yards of storage space. Multiply that by the number of horses on the property to decide where you will set up storage.

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With the manure spreader pulled behind a tractor, truck or ATV, you can fertilize a fallow field.
Photo: manure spreader by Voodoo Zebra, on Flickr

It’s best not to allow the pile to become too large as this will create odor, insect, rodent and other problems. Liquid runoff from a manure pile can seep into ground water contaminating a private well or nearby stream. Ideally, the pile should be at least 200 feet from a residence’s well water or any other water source.

For multiple horses, a concrete pad with two or three walls is recommended for a base of the designated area. Arrange with a local nursery or farmer to haul the manure away regularly. Other suggestions for smaller stables include a metal dumpster, manure spreader or truck bed. These should be emptied as soon as full.

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If you have your own garden you can create a compost pile for a rich soil additive, and even share it with your neighbors.
Photo: More horse manure to complete 4″ by Hayes Valley Farm, on Flickr

With the manure spreader pulled behind a tractor, truck or ATV, you can fertilize a fallow field. Spring and fall are the ideal times for this chore. Cover the ground with the manure up to one inch thick. Don’t spread it on a pasture with horses grazing or you will increase their risk of parasite exposure. Cattle or sheep can graze on it however since they don’t share the same parasites. If you use wood shavings as bedding you will need to add nitrogen fertilizer to the manure before spreading to keep the carbon to nitrogen ratio balanced.

If you have your own garden you can create a compost pile, and even share it with your neighbors. Keep the pile away from any structures since it may spontaneously combust. It must be turned on a weekly basis to accelerate the decaying process resulting in less odor and the creation of a rich soil additive. Allow the internal temperature to reach about 140 degrees. A compost pile should be at least four feet by four feet and four feet deep to reach this temperature. The heat kills any parasite larvae as well as weed seeds. A compost thermometer is available at most garden supply stores.

Dragging a paddock or field to break up the manure piles from turned out horses can be done with a spring-tooth or split-tooth harrow hitched to a tractor or truck.  Another inexpensive option is an old chain-link gate dragged through the area.

States vary but some have requirements for manure storage and disposal. Contact your county cooperative extension office or local branch of the National Resources Conservation Service for more information on manure management in your region.

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Sharon Miner has been a professional horsewoman since 1975, teaching riding lessons at her Unicorn Stables and various summer camps for 25 years. For the following eight years, she managed barns seasonally for a Thoroughbred stud farm, a stable at a private school and international competitors in eventing, combined driving and hunter-jumper disciplines. Currently, she is a mobile pet groomer in the Tampa Bay area, an author of the Beloved Horses series, children’s dog books and teen mystery novels and a freelance writer. Her articles have been published in Dog Fancy, Horse News, Blood Horse, Trail Rider, and online at Phelpssports.com and E-How.com. She travels the country interviewing horse owners, giving clinics in horse and pet care as well as writing workshops. She loves sharing her passions of horses and dogs at equine, pet or book events.

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