Horse Manure Management

Horse Manure Management

Whinny’s Wisdoms

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Howdy, fellow field friends! Whinny the clinic mouse here, back with another barnyard bulletin. Today’s topic? That ubiquitous pile in the paddock – horse manure! Now, I know what you’re thinking: Whinny, why on earth would you want to talk about… that? Well, my curious readers, horse manure is more than just a smelly mound. It’s a goldmine for both you and, surprisingly, the environment! But managing it effectively can be a real head-scratcher. So, let’s burrow in and learn all about the best ways to handle this… ahem… rich resource.

First things first, why is manure management so important? Imagine a world where all that lovely poop just sits there, piling higher and higher. Yuck! Not only would it be a real eyesore (and a nose-wrinkler!), but it could also create a breeding ground for nasty flies and parasites. Additionally, if not dealt with properly, manure runoff can pollute nearby waterways. Yikes! That’s why responsible horse owners have a plan for their “green gold.”

There are several ways to tackle this task, each with its own set of pros and cons. Let’s explore some of the most common methods:

Method #1: Spreading the Wealth

This might sound strange, but fresh manure can actually be a fantastic fertilizer! Packed with nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, it can work wonders on pastures and gardens. However, there’s a catch (besides the, well, catch). Fresh manure can be too strong for plants and burn their delicate roots. So, the key here is to compost the manure first. Talk to your hay producer before using it for gardens. Some hay types are sprayed with herbicides which can damage garden plants even after being eaten, digested, and composted!

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Think of composting as a magical transformation. By piling up the manure with other organic materials like old hay, leaves, and kitchen scraps, and keeping it moist and aerated (turning it regularly is key!), you create a warm, happy environment for tiny decomposer bacteria and fungi to work their magic. Over time, these little critters break down the manure, creating a rich, nutrient-dense soil amendment that’s much gentler on plants. Plus, the heat generated during composting kills weed seeds and nasty parasites, making it a win-win! And if you use fly predators to help manage the flies, you know exactly where to place them: near that compost pile.

Composting does require the most work, but yields the best results over time. There are many ways to manage piles including leaving them alone for prolonged periods and aeration using bounce house blowers. It does require lots of space for those piles, and the fresh edges can be a breeding ground for flies. 

Method #2: Manure Magic with Machines

Now, let’s face it, composting takes time and effort. For some horse farms with a lot of… output… there might be a different solution: manure spreaders. These nifty machines attach to tractors or other equipment and allow for quick and efficient distribution of manure across fields. But remember, even with spreaders, it’s important to follow proper application rates based on soil tests to avoid nutrient overload. An added benefit is that manure dries out quickly when spread making it unsuitable for fly larvae to grow.

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One downside to the scoop and spread method is that it takes a lot to break down shavings. If you are spreading shavings, they pull a lot of nitrogen out of your soil while they’re decomposing, and that’s not good for your pastures. Another potential problem is that seeds that were in your horse’s hay are now being spread on your pastures, and you can end up planting a lot of unplanned things, depending on what all was in your hay besides hay.

Method #3: Calling in the Cavalry (or Should We Say, the Manure Hauler?)

Maybe your farm doesn’t have the space for composting, or perhaps you lack the equipment for spreading. No worries! Many areas have professional manure removal services. These folks come in with their trucks and trailers and whisk all that manure away.

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It’s a convenient option, but keep in mind it can be the most expensive route. Much like composting, it also provides an ideal location to concentrate fly management strategies like fly predators and traps. The flies are attracted to the ideal location to eat and breed.

Bonus Tip: Location, Location, Location!

No matter which method you choose, remember that location is crucial. Manure piles shouldn’t be placed near wells, streams, ditches, or other water sources. This helps prevent potential contamination. Additionally, avoid spreading manure on frozen ground (not much worry in Florida) or during heavy rain (always a worry in Florida) – all that goodness will simply wash away and pollute waterways. 

The location should also balance being far enough away from the horses to keep the flies away, while also being close enough to get to conveniently. The single location makes that fly management much easier! Concentrating your efforts at the pile with things like fly predators, traps, and a black tarp over the pile to heat things up can really put a dent in those very annoying stable and house flies!

The Takeaway: Manure = More Than Just a Mess!

So, there you have it, folks! Horse manure management might not be the most glamorous topic, but it’s a vital part of responsible horse care and environmental protection. By utilizing these methods, horse owners can transform what some might see as a waste product into a valuable resource. Remember, a little planning goes a long way in keeping our barnyards (and our planet) healthy!

And hey, who knows? Maybe with proper management, that big, smelly pile could one day turn into a bed of beautiful flowers or a thriving vegetable patch. Now that’s something to think about next time you scamper past the paddock! 

Until next time, stay curious, my fellow field friends!

P.S. Do you know about the Companion Animal Clinic here at Springhill Equine? That’s right! Our clinic is a whole lot bigger than it used to be, and we now have a full small animal hospital! So in addition to your horses, donkeys, and goats, we’re ready to provide full veterinary care for your dogs and cats. Just give us a call to schedule your appointment at 352-472-1620. You can check out our new facility in this video:

Whinny’s Wisdoms is the official blog of Whinny the Clinic Mouse at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

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