Composted Horse Manure and Stall Bedding Pilot Project

Project Overview

OW11-315
Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2011: $39,410.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Caitlin Price Youngquist
Snohomish Conservation District

Information Products

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • 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

    Abstract:

    Recreational and professional horse owners contribute to maintaining agricultural open space and supporting the agricultural infrastructure and local economy. However, they have historically been overlooked as contributors to animal agriculture, and they do not qualify for most local Farm Bill programs or grants to improve their operations. There has also been very little regulatory oversight of the industry. As a result, many horse owners lack basic knowledge about manure and nutrient management and the impacts of their actions on water and soil quality.

    Composting manure and stall bedding at high temperatures eliminates pathogens and parasites and reduces odors and vector attraction. It is not unusual for dairy farms to use composted or aged manure as bedding. The “Composted Stall Bedding Pilot Project” was developed to study and promote the use of compost as alternative horse stall bedding and encourage horse owners and managers to think more creatively about manure management. The objectives were reduced bedding use and improved land management practices at equine facilities in Snohomish County.

    Introduction

    Snohomish County in Washington State is home to thousands of recreational and professional horse owners. The piles of stall waste generated from some of the larger equine facilities are phenomenal in both size and potential environmental risk. The cost of disposal is prohibitive for many of the larger horse facilities, and as a result, the manure and stall waste piles up. It is not uncommon for piles to be on the scale of 500 to 1,000 cubic yards. Dumping manure and stall waste over the edge of a ravine or using it to fill in low areas is also common practice.

    Bedding purchase and disposal represents a significant cost to both professional and recreational horse owners. The primary bedding material used in this region is wood pellets or wood shavings. These materials are dusty and acidic and can be especially irritating to the skin and respiratory tract when horses are kept confined in stalls.

    Horse owners play an important role in maintaining agricultural open space and supporting the agricultural infrastructure and local economy. However, they have historically been overlooked as contributors to animal agriculture. Most do not qualify for local Farm Bill programs or grants to improve their operations and do not understand the importance of manure and nutrient management. Historically there has been less regulatory oversight of the industry, and most people are unaware that horse manure management practices can significantly impact water quality and animal health.

    Composting manure at high temperatures eliminates pathogens and parasites, stabilizes nutrients and reduces odors and vector attraction. It is not unusual for dairy farms to use composted bedding. So the question was asked: if cows, then why not horses? The “Composted Stall Bedding Pilot Project” was developed to encourage horse owners and managers to think more creatively about managing manure, reducing bedding use and improving land management practices.

    Project objectives:

    1. Conduct on-farm trials to demonstrate the effectiveness of compost as an alternative to conventional horse stall bedding materials (i.e. shavings and wood pellets).
      Develop an education and outreach program that promotes compost as an alternative stall bedding material and composting as a responsible manure management strategy.
    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.