Ginger Davis, Conservation Administrator
No one knows how many horses there are currently in Hamilton County (1,074 in 2017) but most enthusiasts would agree that the popularity of horses continues to rise. At the same time, new residents keep arriving. Forecasters estimate 180,000 more people will live in Hamilton County by 2050. As a result of these trends, recreational horse owners in our area increasingly find themselves in the middle of rapidly growing suburban areas, where they often receive more scrutiny from their neighbors than do their counterparts in rural areas. To maintain good relationships, it is critical to know and practice proper manure and pasture management. Manure handling is viewed as a necessary evil of stall management with horse owners naturally preferring to ride rather than clean stalls. Did you know that one horse can call for the removal of about 12 tons of manure and soiled bedding from its stall annually? The good news is that manure can be a tool to improve soils. The burden of manure can be turned into a benefit to help improve your soil resources.
Often, suburban horse facilities have limited or no acreage for disposal of manure and soiled bedding. Several alternatives for handling manure include land spreading on pasture or crop ground, removal from stable site to storage area for private or commercial hauling, stockpiling, and composting. Some stables have developed markets to distribute or sell the stall waste as a fertilizer resource to gardeners and landowners. Whether in a suburban or rural setting, proper manure management is based on simple principles that virtually eliminate environmental pollution impacts and nuisances such as odor and flies.
Developing a horse manure management plan may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be. Most plans can be developed and implemented using an integrated holistic approach. A holistic approach means thinking about the big picture. An integrated approach means to work with your current needs and issues to find solutions that could benefit other aspects of your land or neighbors and fit it into the environment piece by piece (i.e. manure as a fertilizer source for poor soils). If you look at the big picture first then deal with each component keeping the big picture in mind, it allows you to see how each part of the system can work together. Departmentalizing the components of a manure management systems plan allows you to evaluate what is feasible, what options may be available, as well as, determining how the components may work together in order to develop a sustainable plan into the future. Because no two farms are exactly alike, each plan must be developed individually considering the land, water, soil, air, and neighborhoods in the area.
Before anything else, it is a good idea to think about, write down, and draw a map of what encompasses your respective horse farm. Key points to consider here include:
The 4Rs of nutrient management serve as a guide for environmental concerns prevention planning:
Lastly, prevention is the most important way to avoid a possible manure spill. See our guidance below or in the checklist for an example emergency spill response.
By doing this initial exercise, you get an unbiased perspective as a starting point rather than a reactive attempt at a solution. By approaching your manure management plan one step at a time, you can organize your resources to make the process more efficient and less overwhelming. The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District has prepared a Manure Management Plan Check List with resources that may help in this planning. Manure & Nutrient Management may be eligible for assistance through the Natural Conservation Resource Service offices. Contact us for more information firstname.lastname@example.org Happy Trails!
Emergency Spill Response
Should a spill occur, here are the spill response steps that should be followed: