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Eddie Baggs: Be neighborly by managing horse manure

With more than 25,000 horses in Denton County, proper manure handling and disposal are important management tools - especially since associated issues include odor control, fly breeding and environmental impact. Keep in mind the fact that suburban horse facilities have limited acreage for land to dispose of manure.

Horse manure is about 60 percent solids and 40 percent urine. A 1,000-pound horse produces about 31 pounds of feces and 2.4 gallons of urine daily - around 51 pounds of raw waste per day. Adding another 8 to 15 pounds of stall bedding (straw or shavings), and this equals about 60 pounds of waste material produced daily by one horse.

Manure management practices are different for pastured horses than for stabled horses. Field-deposited manure is beneficial to the soil and grasses, serving as a source of fertilizer. Periodically dragging a harrow over fields and spot-cleaning areas where horses congregate - such as waterers, shade areas, feeders and shelters - should be sufficient to maintain pastures that are not overstocked with animals.

Smaller facilities with limited acreage and stalled horses can establish a stockpile. This should be in an area that is accessible to trucks or tractors and that will facilitate future loading and removal.

The stockpile should be located on high ground, away from possible runoff or floodwaters that could cause nutrients to enter nearby waterways. Screening the stockpile with a fence or hedgerow will help improve aesthetics and contain odors as well.

With proper management, flies and odor can be minimized. Keep the material as dry as possible, and remove the pile every seven days during fly breeding season.

Flies lay eggs in the top two inches of moist manure. Thus, to limit fly breeding areas, minimize the exposed surface area of fresh manure and avoid dumping new material on top of a pile, where it can spread and fall down the sides.

Some facilities prefer to contract with a hauler to dispose of the manure, where the waste is used in commercial composting operations. Smaller operations offer the manure as free garden organic material, often using empty feed sacks for packaging and distribution.

Whatever the method, proper manure management will benefit both the horse owner and their relations with neighbor - and ensure future horse ownership privileges within the area.

EDDIE BAGGS, extension agent with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Denton County, can be reached at 940-349-2880.