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What Is The Best Manure Management System For A Horse Barn?

What Is The Best Manure Management System For A Horse Barn?

Manure management is not a glamorous task but consider this. If you lift 50 pounds of pure weight, say at the gym, it equals the average amount of manure a horse produces per day. Then, add an extra load from soiled bedding and multiply that by the number of horses you have, and as you can probably deduce, you end up with one massive pile of animal excrement. Weight aside, you need to consider how manure impacts your operation. One reason why this is important is that horse manure left as is can pose risks to our health, other animals and, most importantly, the environment. So, let’s examine some reasons why a manure management system matters and the three main ways to deal with it.

Why Manure Management Is Important

#1 Breeding Ground for Parasites and Pests

As one can imagine, manure piles provide the perfect storm for parasites and pests to thrive. It is also an ideal environment for houseflies, stable flies, and other fly types. The main concern is that these organisms, and more particularly their eggs, can hatch and contaminate pastures, feed, or water, and in the worst-case scenario, infect your horses.

#2 Contaminates Surrounding Water

By leaving your manure pile, you are potentially contaminating the water surrounding your stable or barn. Lakes, streams and ponds are subject to contaminants. Leaving your manure pile as is impacts the ecological balance, and can very well harm, if not cause, irreversible damage to the environment. According to the World Health Organization, contaminated water can transmit diseases and even cause death.

#3 Aesthetics: Visually Unappealing & Smells

We’ve all experienced a drive in a farm neighbourhood, and the smell of manure causes us to say, “What is that smell?!” The scent is the manure producing by-products like methane gas, which, aside from smelling horrible, can cause headaches, dizziness, and, at worst, loss of consciousness. Next to smell, the sight of manure piles is not appealing. Your property will be in a better position to earn or entertain existing customers by not showcasing your horse’s excrement. The same goes with stalls, keep them clean if you want your horses and customers to be happy.

With a good manure management program, you can avoid dealing with any of the issues detailed above. Conversely, horse manure is a source of nutrients for plants so that it can be a valuable resource. Still, managing horse manure can be a complicated task, and what works for one barn may not work for another. This next section breaks down your options in terms of manure management.

Manure Management System Options

In this section, we will explore three main options when it comes to dealing with your horse’s manure. 

#1 Spread It

We spoke about the negative attributes of manure; however, there are also a lot of beneficial nutrients in manure that can contribute toward plant growth and improved soil condition. This option is best if your stable or farm has extensive land and if you have a manure spreader or tractor to use. A few things to consider –

  • Make sure you are spreading the manure thinly and also run soil tests so that you are applying it only to those areas that need improvement.
  • Avoid spreading manure during the fall or winter when the ground is frozen or wet, as it may just wash away.
  • Avoid spreading manure where your horses are currently grazing. We do not want to horse or infect the horses.
  • Use a nitrogen fertilizer if you have fresh stall waste that contains wood shavings or sawdust. Elaine Pascoe of Practical Horseman wrote an article titled, “Solve the Horse Manure Pile Problem and she states, “Microbes that break down the wood products draw nitrogen from the soil, and that can stunt plant growth. Nitrogen fertilizer counteracts the effect.”

#2 Compost It

Composting is considered a mainstay these days among gardeners and farmers alike. If we look at it from a business perspective, composting creates direct ROI, and so it should be considered to be a valuable process and resource. Done well, it will kill parasite eggs and weed seeds. Best of all, it can be used directly on land, and any excess can be easily shared or sold to your neighbours. To briefly describe how it works – composing utilizes oxygen in the form of aerobic microbes to break down waste quickly and efficiently. A few things to consider –

  • Your manure pile must fit a specific measurement where the base is twice its height, and the stack is at least 4 feet square by 4 feet deep. Having the correct size will ensure that the stack reaches an active state when the composting temperature is just right.
  • Elaine Pascoe of Equisearch wrote an article titled, “Solve the Manure Pile Problem and she describes the active state of microbes ranges between 110 F and 150 F. In comparison, a sustained internal temperature of 130 F to 150 F will kill parasite eggs and weed seeds. One interesting observation is that once the temperature of your pile drops, the microbes have completed their work. You can carefully monitor pile temperature with a compost thermometer, which you can buy online from Amazon starting at $29.99.
  • You will introduce air into your manure pile by turning the manure with a pitchfork or tractor. You will know when to do this when the internal temperature rises or decreases from the active composting range.
  • Compost piles should be about as damp. By covering your manure piles, you will help keep moisture levels consistent. For stacks set up in arid climates, you can add water to moisten them.

#3 Haul It Away

If you decide instead to get rid of your horse’s manure, then you can truck it off-site. This option makes sense if you have several horses, but not the time or land area to deal with it yourself. A few things to consider –

  • You can rent a bin from a commercial service, and once it is full, they can come to pick up the manure. If you want to avoid an eyesore (big yellow bin), they can also assist you with placement and how large of a container you will need.
  • You want to ensure that the manure goes to an appropriate facility and that the facility is licensed to compost manure. And note, horse manure is typically reused, it does not end up in landfills.
  • There are many guidelines and regulations out there, so make sure you do your research before making any significant decisions.

Finding the best manure management system for you depends on your herd size, your resources, your acreage, equipment and budget. We hope that this article will influence you to take the proper measures to deal with your horse’s manure and to you if you have any questions or comments feel free to reach out to us anytime!

Manure Management