Development and implementation of an equine environmental stewardship program
The team has indirectly affected all Pennsylvania horse owners by conducting research that is being used to establish farm policy and regulations. Twenty-three cooperating horse farms were used as demonstration research sites during the last three years. An additional, 18 horse farms were again evaluated with the SARE grant. The program has demonstrated to the industry agronomic, economic and environmental benefits. The team helped to secure agency match funding to assist horse farms which was unheard of in PA. Equine Team members have been invited to attend state and national educational programming to train agency staff (train the trainers) from Conservation Districts, NRCS, Horse Councils and Cooperative Extension. Statewide, online webinars training conducted by the NRCS trained agency professional on horse management. Information was presented at State Conservation Nutrient Management Advisory Board and the Pennsylvania DEP. Over the past 3 years, during Ag Progress Days and Horse Expos, the team has reached thousands with the Equine Environmental Stewardship topics. To date, 80% of all surveyed workshop participants adopted at least two BMP strategies to improve conditions on their farm. Information gathered from the team’s research generated several scientific abstracts and presentation at national meetings, several popular press and tread magazine articles. After farm visits 60% of farm managers incorporated the suggested practices into their operations. The remaining 33% reported that they wanted to utilize the suggested practices, but required financial assistance or more technical information. Results of the information gathered in the team’s program has been utilized and examined by state regulatory agencies assisting the agencies in potential regulations and assistance concerning equine farm operations.
Of the 28 equine operations that participate as cooperators, 100% (28 farms, representing 1,036 acres) will implement at least two identified practices designed to reduce phosphorous levels in their feed and /or reduce soil and nutrient loss by increasing canopy cover within the pastures. 100% of the farmers that develop plans to improve pastures will show an improvement in canopy cover, forage quantity, and pasture conditions. Most literature reports the need for maintaining 70-75% vegetative cover in pastures. Below this level significant sediment loss can occur. A minimum of 10 of the 28 farms will be selected for this project based on the criteria that the pastures are overgrazed and have canopy covers that are determined to be less than 50%. The target for the 10 farms is to increase canopy cover to 70 to 80% which will reduce sediment loss by over 1 ton per acre, per year resulting in a potential soil loss savings of 37 tons per farm). Soil loss figures will be derived using RUSLE2 Erosion Calculations.
A major objective is to continue to offer the Equine Environmental Stewardship Short Course. The course, is offered at various locations throughout the state, will provide information and hands-on learning experiences designed to provide horse owners with the knowledge and skills necessary to adopt sustainable & environmentally sound farm management practices.
Equine Stewardship Team offered several equine programs focused on the following topics BMPs for farm environmental stewardship, manure management and pasture management (to promote horse as well as farm health). Educational workshops/field days were offered with 420 farm managers, agency and industry representatives attending, an additional 32,233 people were exposed to information at other events. An extensive curriculum was delivered using DVDs, demonstration farms, field days, web-sites, seminars, newsletters, articles in the popular press, power points and webinars. Several educational workshops were offered across the state focused on BMPs to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution and promote horse health. Project information is available through the PSU DAS web site; http://extension.psu.edu/animals/equine and Equine Science Newsletter websites. We presented annually at the following industry events: Ag Progress Days, American Horse Council States Issue Forums, World Horse Expo, Equine Science Society and PA Forage and Grasslands Council Meetings. Team members have provided technical assistance to veterinarians, seed and feed industry dealers, municipal officials, agency representatives and legislators. Other states have requested team members as speakers for national and state programs and events such as: Ohio’s Equine Affair, Delaware’s Ag Days, Cornell’s Horseman’s Forum, NY, 5th National Conference on Grazing Lands in FL, American Horse Council States Issue Forums, CO.
- Horse Expo, Harrisburg, PA (Lecture meeting room)
- Donna Foulk Speaker at Equine Stewardship Forum
- Plant identification filed demo Clinton County,
The SARE grant is being used to enhance educational efforts to reduce sediment and nutrient loss to the environment. This year, eighteen farmers participated in a project designed to implement practices to increase canopy cover and desirable forages in pastures and reduce nutrient and sediment loss from farms. Practices implemented include: Sacrifice lots (N=12); Rotation (N=10); Renovating pastures using a no-till drill or farm owned equipment (N=4); Fencing stream corridors (N=1); Precision feeding (N=14). Four participants completed pasture renovation projects. Before renovation, canopy covers ranged from 25% to 65%; several pastures produced canopy covers of over 98%; with nearly 100% desirable plant population.
Equine Environmental Stewardship Courses – Over 420 farm managers completed the 4-part short course which was held in nine counties in PA and two counties in NY. Surveys showed: 90% of those surveyed reported a large increase in knowledge about: forage biology; pasture renovation; identifying forage and weeds; soil testing and applying nutrients; nutrient management regulations. 94% conducted soil tests; 86% planned to apply nutrients based on recommendations; 74% planned to increase rotation or add stress lots; 74% planned to inventory weeds and forage; 72% planned to renovate pastures; 66% planned to develop a nutrient/manure management plan; 66 % planned to improve manure storage.
The Equine pasture evaluation disk(EPED) and Equine Pasture Condition Score Sheet have been used by Extension Educators and NRCS personnel in PA, NJ, and NY. 366 adults and 86 youth used the tools to evaluate their pastures; 98% of those surveyed (86) reported that the method was easy to use; 91% stated that recording data made them more aware of pasture conditions.
- Environmental Stewardship Farm Partners Farm Examples off the PSU,DAS web site
- Sample Flyer for Programs,
- Sample demo horse farm partner,
- EPED Pasture Evaluation disk
- Using an Equine Pasture Evaluation Disk (EPED) to Document Canopy Cover and Evaluate Pasture Improvement
- Equine Pasture Poster
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Agency Collaboration and Train the Trainer Programs: Team members have provided technical assistance to agency and legislative representatives initiating nutrient regulation. A webinar and four regional training workshops were held for 145 NRCS and Conservation District personnel. Resulting in, 85% reported that the training increased their understanding of equine behavior and grazing patterns; 82% said the information would help them develop recommendations for pasture management and animal sacrifice areas; 78% stated that they developed a better understanding of the industry and horse owners.
Impact on State Policies and BMPs: The team has indirectly affected all Pennsylvania horse owners by conducting research that is being used to establish farm policy and regulations. Team members were selected to serve on the State Forage and Grassland Council Coalition, the State Conservation Commission’s Nutrient Management Advisory Committee, State Conservation Commission’s Oder Management Advisory Committee, PA Forage Grasslands Council and Pa Farm Bureau’s Manure Manual Review Team.
Team members have provided technical assistance to agency and legislative representatives initiating nutrient regulation revisions. The data collected on project farms was utilized to revise horse manure nutrient levels, served as a baseline data for the DEP Manure Manual, and was used in PA Agronomy Guide animal body weight tables.
Professions Presentations, Information was presented at State Conservation Nutrient Management Advisory Board and the Pennsylvania DEP. Information gathered from the team’s research generated scientific papers, abstracts and presentation at national meetings.
Educational Materials: PSU DAS web site; http://www.das.psu.edu/research-extension/equine/adult-education Environmental stewardship Project and Equine Science Newsletter websites. Site is visited by 6,020, subscribers 540, and forwarded to an additional 1,500 email addresses and utilized by two state Extension equine programs CT and ND).
Development of the Equine Pasture Evaluation Disc to Document Pasture Quality Developed Tools to Evaluate Equine – A need was identified to modify the Pasture Condition Score Sheet to more accurately reflect conditions on equine operations. As a result, the Pennsylvania Equine Pasture Condition Score Sheet and the Equine Pasture Evaluation Disc (EPED) are now used on farms.
Publications, Abstracts and Proceedings
Westendorf M. L., C. Williams, A. O. Burk, N. Trottier, K. Martinson, P. D. Siciliano, A. M. Swinker, E. A. Elizabeth A. Greene and R. Bott. (2012). Environmental impacts of equine operations: a U.S. Department of Agriculture multistate project, J. Eq. Vet. Sci. 32:6, 324-326.
Swinker, A., Worobey, S., McKernan, H., D., Foulk, D, Schneider , F., and Brubaker, M., 2012. Profile of the equine industry grazing practices, 5th National Conference on Grazing Lands, Proceedings, GLCI. 334.
McKernan, H. A. and Swinker A. M. 2012.Involving Youth in Livestock and Horses in Environmental Stewardship Projects, 5th National Conference on Grazing Lands, Proceedings, GLCI, 335.
Foulk, D., Swinker,A.,Kadwill1, N.,McKernan1,H.,Truax,T., Brubaker, M., Schneider, F. 2012.Equine Environmental Stewardship: A Comprehensive Approach to Enhancing Adoption of Best Management Practices on Equine Operations, 5th National Conference on Grazing Lands, Proceedings, GLCI. 336.
Program Specific Indicators: Equine Environmental Stewardship Short Course, 96 % participants had an increase in: forage identification and selection and weed management.
Participants adopted the following:
74% planned to add paddocks and stress lots..
74% planned to generate a weed and toxic plant inventory.
72% planned to renovate the pastures to thicken the stand.
66% planned to have a nutrient management plan developed for farms.
86% planned or already apply nutrients based on soil test results.
66 % planned or already had a proper manure storage facility.
80% already contact or planned to contact Cooperative Extension for assistance.
SARE -ON Farm Improvement, 18 managers participated in a SARE project designed to help farm managers implement practices to increase the canopy cover and desirable forages in pastures, reduce nutrient and sediment loss.
SARE Participants reported:
Development of heavy use areas/stress lots to reduce grazing pressure. N=12
Implementation of rotational grazing plans. N=10
Adoption rotational grazing on a weekly/ daily basis. N=1
Renovating pastures based on a management plan. N=12
Fencing stream corridors to restrict horse access to streams. N=1
Managing water flow on heavy use areas by constructing bio-swales. N=1
Ration evaluation and modification to reduce excess nutrients in manure. N=14
The Introduction of Pennsylvania’s Manure Nutrient Management Plan Regulations for every farm caused us to expand the manure management segment of the workshops. This resulted in 560 managers of equine operations attending one of 16 workshops that we presented on the impact of nutrients/sediments on water quality, assessing farm risks, and complying with regulations.
92% of those surveyed (110)could identify potential sources of contamination on farms.
85% reported a better understanding of the impact contaminants have on ground and surface water.
81% understood how to comply with regulations.
Extension Educator Northampton Co.
Penn State University Extension
Cooperative Extension Greystone Building
Nazareth, PA 1680-9212
Office Phone: 6107461970
Penn State University
324 Henning Building
Penn State University, DAS
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 5706603150
Penn State University
Penn State University Extension
Greystone Building Gracedale Complex
Nazareth, PA 18064-9212
Office Phone: 6107461970