While not the most glamorous of topics associated with the equine industry, good manure management practices are essential for horse farm owners and the health of your horses.
Economic and environmental advantages are many and include:
• Improved soil quality and productivity
• Protecting surface water, ground water and drinking water
• Protecting air quality
• Reducing fertilizer costs
• Controlling parasites and flies
A 1,000lb horse will produce roughly nine tons of manure per year. This will include both in the stall and in the fields. You need to plan ahead and decide on your best practice going forward, if they are year round outside horses that is a lot of manure in the paddocks to deal with every day. Leaving this until the spring or fall is no longer the best option.
Paddock Manure Management
When you take a proactive approach to managing your paddocks the paddocks will give all of the nutrients back into rich horse grass and feed. If you just leave the manure to compost in the fields, the grass will be filled with parasites, worms and dead grass under the manure piles. Effectively managing manure in paddocks can significantly reduce the number of parasite worms, as well as swarms of insects and flies in surrounding areas. In the winter months it will help to control the run off of manure into water ways and drinking sources.
Farm owners need to balance the approach of extra labour to pick paddocks and ensure the health of their horses. Horse paddocks need constant maintenance to be able to produce high quality forage.
Pick Every Day
For some situations, paddock manure management is a daily routine and droppings are removed either by hand or via machine, such as a Paddock Vac. Paddock Vacuum’s originated in Europe over 15 years ago and has gained incredible popularity because of the ease and speed that you can “pick” a paddock. The unit attaches to the back of a garden tractor or four-wheeler and you drive around the paddock, put the wand over the droppings and the 4” hose sucks the poop into the holding tank. The tanks are two sizes; one size is approximately three to four wheelbarrow loads of manure and the larger size is seven to eight loads. The dumping is as simple as backing up to the manure pile, releasing the foot peddle and lifting the tank to empty. Most people find they can pick a standard two-acre paddock in 20 minutes (of course depending on the number of horses and the length of time in-between collections).
When not managed properly, manure can pollute the environment; mainly as ground or surface water pollution due to the nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and carbon (organic matter). In addition, manure can lead to air quality concerns, pathogens in water supplies, odors, dust, and the presence of vermin.
Manure can also be re-distributed in paddocks by using a pasture harrow, such as the Equine Estate Harrow, to evenly spread the material over grazing areas. Harrowing is the process of breaking up the clumps, exposing the parasites and insects to air and sunlight, which eliminates a fair majority of them. This process allows the pasture to breathe and rejuvenate; failure to break up the clumps will leave areas bare and unable to grow new grasses. Complete this process when horses are rotated out of the pasture and allow two to thre days of rest after harrowing the fields.
Harrowing can be done in either cold or hot temperatures, but again, should be completed in dry weather. The process distributes nutrients back into the soil and allows horses to graze evenly.
Best farm and outdoor grazing practices include a plan to pick paddocks either daily or once a week.This combined with rotational grazing and a nutrient management plan will ensure the land is good for years to come.
All in all, carefully considering the many aspects of Field manure management can ensure the horse farm owner the most economical route toward high nutrient paddocks and fields.