The Benefits of Composting Horse Manure

Most horse owners will simply stockpile their horses’ manure on a daily basis. Meaning that the farmer will remove any fresh piles from the day and add it to a larger pile where it is stored for later use. This pile can be out in the open field where there is easy access to spread it on the crop land, or in a segregated structure to minimize the odour on the farm.

If the manure stockpiles are left to sit long enough the farmer will notice as they dig closer to the centre of the pile that the decomposition process has already begun. The manure looks and feels more like dirt than manure. However if the manure is placed into a compost with other organic materials there are numerous benefits that simple stockpiling just can’t live up to.

Composting horse manure will reduce the amount of flies in the fields and on the farm. Stockpiles and place fresh manure on crops attracts flies that lay eggs in the fresh manure. Composting will raise the temperature high enough in the manure that any eggs or larvae living in it will be killed as well. The high temperatures will also kill off parasites and pathogens that can infect horses who graze in the fields where manure is laid.

A good compost will reduce the strong odour that exists with stockpiling. Composting will also reduce the amount of manure that is needed to be stored by up to 50%. That is quite an achievement considering one horse can produce up to nine tons of manure a year.

Compost can be sold more readily than un-composted manure. Composted manure is in demand and used by many different businesses and farms alike. It can be sold to neighbours, local nurseries or even local landscaping businesses. There is a lot to be said about taking a pile of crap and turning it into gold.

Laying compost in fields will help even out the grazing patterns of horses. Most horses will not graze on any cropland that has a thick layer of manure placed on it. However most do not seem to mind the compost at all and will graze happily even on the same day it is applied.

Composting manure is also healthier for the soil because of the added nutrients and micro organisms that exist within it. Fresh manure will lose most of its nitrogen to rain whereas composted manure will have converted almost all nitrogen in the manure to the compost itself. This protects the surrounding areas and water catchments from nitrate runoff that can create health problems if levels rise too high in local drinking water. Composting will also protect fish and other water ecosystems in the same way. It will reduce nitrate runoff and the amount of packed soil that can contribute to erosion.

Lastly, as with all composted materials it helps to conserve natural resources. Using composted manure instead of mixing soil with chemical fertilizers will reduce our use of non-renewable resources used to manufacture nitrogen fertilizer.

There seems to be no advantages to stockpiling except for the daily fresh supply. However as soon as the composting process is situated, using an incremental method will keep a fresh and large supply of compost available at any time thought the year. -KATIE FLYNN

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