Composted Horse Manure and Stall Bedding Pilot Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2011: $39,410.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Grant Recipient: Snohomish Conservation District
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Caitlin Price Youngquist
Snohomish Conservation District

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: parasite control, manure management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, value added
  • Soil Management: composting
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities

    Proposal abstract:

    Snohomish County, Washington is home to thousands of recreational and professional horse owners and the largest 4-H horse program in the United States. Tens of thousands of horses means a very large volume of manure, and the piles of stall waste generated from some of the larger equine facilities are phenomenal in both size and potential environmental risk. It is not uncommon for piles to be on the scale of 500 to 1,000 cubic yards at a given farm. Many backyard horse keepers follow the age-old practice of dumping manure and stall waste over the edge of a ravine or the back fence or filling in low areas of the property. With high annual rainfall and an abundance of perennial streams, wetlands and lakes in western Washington, the potential for adverse impact to aquatic wildlife and water resources is significant. Backyard horse owners and professional equine facility managers have historically been overlooked as contributors to animal agriculture. They do not qualify for local Farm Bill programs or grants to improve their operations, and most do not understand the need for manure and nutrient management. There has also been significantly less regulatory oversight within the industry, and many people are not aware that horse manure management practices can significantly impact water quality and animal health. The Snohomish Conservation District (SCD) is always looking for innovative and effective ways to work with horse owners and managers to improve resource management. The "Composted Horse Manure and Stall Bedding Pilot Project" was developed as a way to encourage horse owners and managers to improve manure management, reduce off-farm inputs and operating expenses, and develop sustainable land management practices. This project is a collaboration between SCD and the owners of five commercial equine facilities. These equine professionals are eager for an opportunity to turn their ‘liability’ into an 'asset' and promote appropriate manure management within the equine industry. Peter Moon of O2Compost (a national leader in horse manure compost systems) will provide technical expertise and assist with demonstrations throughout the course of this project. SCD will coordinate field trials at the five facilities, and Mr. Moon will provide technical guidance on setting up the manure and bedding compost system at each site. The facilities participating in the trial range from 10 to 50 stalls. The method of composting that will be used is called Aerated Static Pile (ASP) Composting, in which airflow is induced through the mix of materials using an electric blower and the pile is not turned during the active phase of composting. ASP composting was originally developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the mid-1970s and is used throughout the country to process a wide variety of municipal organic waste materials. O2Compost has simply taken this technology and adapted it to work with smaller volumes of organic waste materials in an agricultural setting. After going through the active phase of ASP composting (~30 days), the manure and bedding will be sorted using a portable device called "The Stall Sh*fter." The fines (up to 75% of the total volume) will be reused as stall bedding. The composted manure will be free of odors and weed seeds, very stable and uniform in texture, making it an excellent product as stall bedding. Excess compost may be spread on pastures or sold to landscapers and home gardeners. One of the compost systems will be operated using solar power. A strong education and outreach program will be essential to the success of this project. This program will promote compost as an alternative stall bedding material and on-farm composting as an effective manure management strategy. Outreach activities will include demonstrations at trial sites and local fairs and trainings on successful horse manure composting. Educational materials produced will include an illustrated fact-sheet, a short video, a free webinar and articles in the SCD newsletter, and two regional equine publications. The direct impact of the "Composted Horse Manure and Stall Bedding Pilot Project" will be an increased awareness among horse owners and equine facility managers about the need for effective manure management and the benefits of using recycled stall bedding. Additionally this project will reduce the amount of waste generated from horse stalls, protect surface and ground water from manure contamination, reduce offensive odors, pathogens, parasites, flies, and weed seeds in manure piles, and reduce off-farm inputs and bedding costs. While this pilot project will focus on equine facilities in Snohomish County, the results will be applicable nationwide.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1:

    Conduct a ten-month on-farm trial to compare the economics and effectiveness of compost as an alternative to conventional horse stall bedding materials such as straw, wood shavings and wood pellets. Trial participants will include four commercial horse boarding and training facilities and one professional farrier school. The compost will be laboratory tested for basic nutrients and pathogens. The on-farm trials will begin September 1, 2011 and go through June 30, 2012.

    Objective 2:

    Develop an education and outreach program that promotes compost as an alternative stall bedding material and composting as an effective manure management strategy. This program will include:

    a. Hosting at least three demonstrations at on-farm trial sites between January 1, 2012 and June 30, 2012. These events will be open to the public and will be specifically targeted towards equine facility managers, service providers and leaders within the local horse industry.

    b. Demonstrations at two local fairs and the state fair to promote the concept and reach a wider audience than the on-farm demonstrations.

    c. Creation of an illustrated fact sheet and short video. The fact sheet will be completed by March 1, 2012, and the video will be completed by June 30, 2012.

    d. Publication of articles in the SCD newsletter and two regional equine publications.

    e. One interactive webinar promoted to a national audience.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.