You need a strategy for using or disposing of your horse’s manure. Good manure management is important for the health of your horse and your family. Needless to say, it can also be important to comply with state or county regulations. And if you have neighbors nearby, you want to avoid any controversy with them.
An average 1,000-pound horse can produce 9 tons of manure waste each year. This is about £ 50 per day. If you’re going to store it, it translates to about 2 cubic feet per day or 730 cubic feet per year – from just one horse.
How the manure is stored and processed affects its value. A composition of manure and litter is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These nutrients can be fed back to the soil and made available for pastures, lawns, landscaping, crops and gardens.
The importance of manure management
Stables and paddocks should be removed regularly to prevent surface water contamination and to control parasites and breed flies. Stable flies usually breed in the moist horse manure. So it makes sense if you want to keep the fly population low, manage your horse’s manure.
The life cycle of horse parasites also begins with eggs in the manure, which grow into contagious larvae that later appear in your horse’s pasture. Consuming grass, feed or water contaminated with infectious larvae will infect your horse. Parasites are one of the major health threats to horses kept in small areas and can cause irreparable internal damage. Manure management is an important part of parasite control.
So what are your options for manure management?
Essentially, your choices are to use it on site, give it away, or drag it to another location.
If you are not going to use the fertilizer yourself, make a plan so that other people can use it. You may be able to make arrangements with landscapers, nurseries or garden centers, parks and neighbors to purchase or take care of your raw or composted manure for free. You may have to hand over the fertilizer yourself.
Typical horse manure management consists of daily removal and storage for later use or spreading on cropland.
Manure that is spread daily should be spread thinly and shaken (dragged) with a chain to break up larger dung piles and expose parasite eggs to the elements and to promote rapid drying. Do not spread on pastures grazed by horses during the current year.
Alternatively, manure can be stored and built up until it can be disposed of, or composted for later use. A large storage space provides better flexibility in the timing of fertilizer use.
An enclosed space of 144 square meters will contain one horse’s manure for a year. Over time, manure shrinks through decomposition and can build up to 3 to 5 feet deep. Your storage area should be easily accessible for loading and unloading.
The location of the storage area is important to protect against surface and groundwater pollution. The storage area must be at least 50 meters away from surface water (creeks and ponds) and wells. A perimeter trench dug around the storage area may be required to prevent runoff. By covering the storage with a roof or tarpaulin, contamination of both ground and surface water can be prevented.
Some of the newer ground covers are more absorbent, allowing you to use less ground cover 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 needed to soak up urine and fluids to reduce the amount you need to manage.
By composting manure for 6 months to a year, a relatively dry product is created that is easy to process and the volume of the manure is reduced by as much as 40 to 60 percent. This also kills fly eggs, larvae, pathogens and weed seeds.
Aeration speeds up the composting process. The rate of decomposition depends on how many times the stack is turned over. An alternative to turning the post is to insert perforated PVC pipes into the post for aeration. The composting process takes a little longer, but is much less labor intensive. A slow decomposition rate is usually due to a lack of aeration.
The compost pile must remain moist. You may need to water or cover to retain moisture. If small moisture droplets appear when you squeeze your hand, then the moisture content is sufficient. Compost should smell sweet. If there is an unpleasant odor from the pile, it is too wet and should be kept under a cover to 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 only be spread on arable land or other non-grazed, overgrown areas.
Landfills should only be used when there is no other option. And beware: not all landfills accept manure. Remember that your horse’s manure is a valuable resource and is best used for recycling rather than waste.
There are a few garbage / waste companies that specialize in removing manure and recycling it. This is a good alternative for people who do not have enough land where manure can be stored or spread. These waste companies will provide a waste container and schedule regular collection based on your needs.