A Horse Owner’s Guide to Good Stewardship by Bricole Reincke
Those who own a horse or who manage a commercial stable must be aware of the potential negative impacts that manure can have on the environment. Good water and soil stewardship are essential in lessening the environmental impact of caring for a horse. By developing a plan for manure management, horse owners and stable managers can use the nutrients from the soil as fertilizer without harming the environment.
Nutrients in Fertilizer
Horse bedding, urine and feces all are components of manure. Manure contains necessary fertilizer nutrients that help crops flourish. These nutrients include potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous. While plants need these ingredients to grow, adding too much can kill crops and pollute soil and water with parasites and disease-causing pathogens. Over time, too much manure can eventually make its way down into groundwater and wells, harming those who drink it.
Using Just Enough Manure
To prevent the potential negative environmental impact of manure, it is essential to add just enough manure to crops. To figure this out, soil tests must be done to determine how much of the nutrients are necessary for the good health of the plants. Next, estimate the number of nutrients that the manure contains. This can be done by testing the manure pile.
Using these numbers, determine the amount of manure that needs to be spread over the crops. Always err on the side of caution and add the least amount of the needed nutrients. For example, add just enough of the manure to cover the crop’s nitrogen and phosphorous needs. If less of one nutrient is needed, use this amount as the guide as adding too much of another nutrient can be disastrous for crops, soil and water.
Safely Storing Manure
Excess manure must be stored responsibly to prevent runoff that can damage the environment. The average 1,000-pound horse produces eight tons or 25 cubic yards of manure per year. This manure must be stored until needed. Manure should be stored at least 50 feet away from a watercourse or drainage. Another option is to surround the manure with grass, which can help prevent runoff.
Properly stored and applied, manure can help farmers produce bountiful crops that benefit the entire community. Good stewardship of this manure can help prevent disastrous environmental impacts and keeps the area’s soil and water safe for everyone in the community.