The manure “problem”
Manure management has become a major concern for horse farms of all sizes. Horse manure, along with any other type of animal manure, can have detrimental impacts on the local environment. It also has become significantly more challenging to find facilities to accept manure and expenditures around manure management have grown substantially. The all-too-familiar growing mountain of manure seen on many properties is becoming less acceptable due to greater public awareness and pressures by surrounding urban development.
What’s wrong with spreading raw manure?
A common mismanagement practice associated with manure is the spreading of raw manure. However, this can actually be harmful to your pastures and have the opposite effect desired. Plants need nitrogen to grow, and when raw manure is spread the nitrogen within the manure tends to volatize & immobilize, rendering it unusable for microorganisms. The microbes will then “suck” up nitrogen from the grasses in the pasture so that they themselves can grow, which will hinder the growth of the grasses.
Through the process of composting, microbes are able to recycle the nutrients they use and retain them within the compost so that they are not competing for nitrogen with the grasses in your pasture.
This photo shows an algae bloom that resulted from hog fuel leachate from a nearby farm.
The importance of composting your manure
Following are potential negative impacts on the local environment and farming communities due to poor manure management practices:
- Unsafe drinking water due to groundwater pollution and/or well contamination
- Water unsafe for recreational purposes such as swimming
- Animal health problems including the spread of disease among livestock from surface water pollution
- Death of fish and other aquatic organisms
- Increased populations of unwanted insects
- Destruction of aquatic habitat vital to the survival of aquatic life
- Difficulties with neighbors due to the smell and unsightliness of stored manure
- Losing the right to farm in a rapidly urbanizing area
- Drainage problems
Benefits of composting manure
Manure bin rentals and haul-away fees can cost thousands of dollars each year. These annual costs can be significantly reduced or even eliminated by a one-time investment in your property to build a proper composting system.
Helping the Environment
Improperly stored horse manure can cause damage to the local environment, polluting groundwater and local streams. Some salmon bearing streams no longer support fish populations due to such pollution. Compost systems are built to ensure proper storage so that the health of the local community and environment is maintained. Composting your manure can also help to reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding waste transferring and keeping it out of the landfill.
Mulching your fields with properly composted horse manure can drastically improve pasture health by providing an on-demand, slow-release natural fertilizer, improving pasture drainage and improving soil structure. Visit the pasture management page to find more information on how to keep your fields healthy.