It’s a chore no horse owner looks forward to, but it’s one of the most crucial to the health of your animals and your horse farm: waste management. Horses are big animals (you’ve probably noticed), and keeping them and their surroundings clean is no mean feat. Here are some tips on how to reduce waste and responsibly manage what’s leftover.
Stalls and Shavings
We like to give our horses the best of everything, and that includes a soft, fluffy bed to lay on. But that soft, fluffy bed can be a pain for you when the time comes to clean it out: it’s hard to dig through, and the shavings that compose it are some of the most annoying things you’ll ever get stuck in your socks. But bedding is still a necessity in order to soak up waste and excess moisture in your horse’s stall. What to do?
The first step is reducing the amount of shavings used, if possible. Soft and fluffy may mean bedtime bliss for humans, but horses don’t really need lots of fluff to be comfy. A moderate, even dusting should be enough to absorb excess moisture and make stall cleaning much more manageable.
Secondly, consider investing in rubber stall mats. Your horse will thank you: a level surface with just a little bit of cushion is much better for hooves than concrete or uneven, rocky ground. That level surface will also reduce effort and waste come stall-cleaning time. The firmness and flatness of the rubber allows you to easily scoop up any manure and soiled shavings without discarding too much unused shavings in the process.
Another worthwhile investment to consider is a good stall refresher. Stall refreshers are products that help stall bedding not only absorb excess moisture from urine, but also break down the ammonia in it that can negatively impact your horse’s respiratory health. These products come in both liquid and solid forms. The liquid forms can be easily and evenly sprayed over shavings and under stall mats. Solid stall refreshers are usually made out of a clay-like compound called zeolite and are spread by hand over shavings. They have the advantage over liquid forms of keeping stalls drier and being excellent for spot-cleaning. Many solid stall refresher brands even boast of transforming ammonia into nitrogen, making stall waste healthier for the soil. However, you tend to lose more of the solid product when scooping out the stall. Liquid refreshers remain the slightly less wasteful option.
Dealing with manure is perhaps the biggest element of waste management for any horse farm. We covered manure issues a-plenty in our last installment of Green Horsekeeping (which is quite enough for us for a while, thank you), so click here to learn more!
Composting isn’t just for the crunchy granola crowd anymore! As a horse owner, you can benefit from it in a variety of ways no matter the size of your horse farm. Turning manure into compost kills fly eggs and larvae, parasites, pathogens, and weed seeds, making it safer to store on your property. Compost has a much less noticeable smell than raw manure, and is more easily marketed to local farmers and other agricultural businesses who use it for fertilizer. As a fertilizer, compost releases nutrients into the soil slowly yet steadily, and is an excellent soil conditioner if you choose to use it for your own property. Turning raw manure into compost chiefly requires a good balance of moisture — it should be kept moist, but never soggy. It may need to be watered and/or covered with plastic to maintain its moisture balance. Compost must also be exposed to air on a regular basis, so be sure to turn it regularly in order to keep it aerated. Careful mucking is also important, as excess bedding in the manure can throw off its natural carbon to nitrogen ratio.
For more tips on environmentally-friendly horsekeeping, check out our previous installment on water conservation, and be sure not to miss our next post which will cover best practices for feed and pasture management. Stay green, y’all!