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The Benefits of Good Manure Management


2014/01/04

By Leigh Ballard, compiled from multiple sources

What’s left from all that expensive feed and hay your horses eat? Manure! It happens!  However, good manure management goes a long way toward making the issue less messy and less of a problem. Good manure management involves a system for cleaning it up, storing it, and disposing of it. A good system will not only help you, the horse owner or caretaker, but it will also help your horse to be healthier. A good system also keeps ponds, streams, and pastures healthier by keeping them cleaner. Good manure management is good for people, horses, and the environment.

Mucking: cleaning up manure is the beginning of good management. A clean barn gives the aesthetic benefit of fewer flies and less odor when manure is cleaned up. And the horse is healthier! Parasites are a top concern for maintaining horse health. So, cleaning up manure – both in the barn and in your pasture - helps with parasite control by removing a source for contamination. Horses who graze near their own manure are quickly reinfested by larvae that hatch from the worm eggs in the manure.

Regarding manure and parasites, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) advises: Part of a good manure/parasite management program includes the following practices:

1) Keep the number of horses per acre to a minimum to prevent overgrazing and reduce pasture contamination with manure which contains parasite eggs and larvae.
2) Pick up and dispose of manure regularly (at least twice a week, even in dirt or sand yards).
3) Do not spread manure on fields to be grazed by horses; instead, compost it in a pile away from the pasture.
4) Mow and harrow pastures periodically to break up manure piles and expose parasite larvae to the elements.

Another benefit of good manure management is mud control. Mud is created when the vegetative cover is stripped away and all that remain on the surface are with soil and fine organic material that mix with water. Manure is fine organic material, and it holds moisture and contributes to mud. Mud creates many unhealthy and unpleasant problems for both people and horses. Mud breeds nuisance insects that are not only annoying, but they also can carry diseases or cause allergic reactions. Mud harbors all sorts of bacterial and fungal organisms which can cause skin and hoof problems. Mud contributes to wet and soft hooves, making them more susceptible to thrush and vulnerable to abscesses. Mud also creates slippery, dangerous footing for both horses and people.

The second part of manure management is storage. Where you decide to put manure after you’ve cleaned it out of the barn is a key component to good management. The ideal place for manure piles is on high ground where it won’t sit in collected water. Locating it on a concrete surface is also ideal. Covering the manure pile with a tarp or even locating it under a shed or roof will help it stay dry so that it doesn’t create mud or runoff.  Runoff from soggy manure piles can cause surface water and ground water contamination problems. If the pile is on a slope where there will be some runoff, a strip of thick grass on the downslope of the pile will help prevent excessive discharge of nutrients into the surrounding surface water of ponds or streams.

Disposal: So now that it’s cleaned up and stored, what do you do with it?  A manure pile is not necessarily a pleasing sight. Hauling manure away can be expensive, and there are conflicting views on spreading manure on pastures where horses graze. However, if manure has been composted, it becomes a valuable product that can be used on site for pasture fertilization, or sold for use on pastures, gardens, and landscapes. Composting is a fairly easy process involving just a few tools and some space, and is a “best management practice” disposal option. Find a place on your property that is remote from your barn (and water sources) for composting the manure. As the pile decays, you will find a rich, black soil underneath the pile. Black gold!

Having a viable manure management system on your horse property will greatly reduce the unpleasant and inconvenient aspects of horse-keeping such as flies, parasites, odor, mud, and runoff. A good system will save you money in the long run by reducing horse health problems and environmental problems.  

Resources:
http://cs.thehorse.com/blogs/smart-horse-keeping/archive/2010/12/10/mud-management-103-establish-a-manure-management-program.aspx#sthash.P1qCraAs.dpuf
http://www.horsesforcleanwater.com/samples/HBCWManual2001.pdf
“Wage War On Equine Parasites” http://www.equisearch.com/horses_care/health/deworming/eqpara2574/

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