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Pasture Management and Manure Management for Horse Owners!
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Managing horse manure for healthier horses!

 Keeping pastures healthy keeps your horses healthier, reduces your feed bills, reduces your physical labor and reduces the time away from your horses.
 Article from Super Scooper by Red Barn Products, LLC

Fulfilled Dreams
It is good to have dreams and to realize them. Owning horses is a big dream for many and a big responsibility too. Owning horses allows you to develop deep and meaningful relationships with large creatures that are truly different from ourselves. These strong, fast beings have many personalities and many moods. Horse ownership can be both extremely rewarding and sometimes frustrating. Given time and patience horse ownership can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

So you have now made the big investment.  You own a home and acreage and have decided to purchase horses.  You made sure that you have purchased the best feed.  You made sure you have a way to water them.  You have looked at all of the new snacks and all of the new toys for your horses.  And then the big day comes – your new horses arrive.  They look so beautiful running in the pasture.  The wind blowing their mane.  They look happy as they bound about the property.  You have now moved into the horse owner world. There are over 9 million horses in the United States, and you now are privileged to say that some are yours.

You start off spending hours watching yours horses. You want them to get used to you, and you must get to understand them and their needs. They start to trust you and sometimes they will come to you – apples always help with that. So do snacks. If they are saddle broke, you may already be trying to ride them. They bring great joy to your heart to see them happy on your piece of property – grazing contently.

The Manure Problem
It takes about three days and then you start to realize that you have a problem that you did not consider. There is now a huge amount of manure in your pasture.  You don’t like the look, and you’ve heard it’s bad for the horses, so you decide that the best way to deal with the manure is to pick it up.  A quick run to the supply store and you have a rake and a push bucket.  You now spend the next twelve hours picking manure and find that you can’t keep up.  You are now working for your horses. 
You dreamed of fun times riding and caring for your horses.  But the time you are investing in your pasture is time that you are not spending with your horses.  There are options to get you out of this predicament.  You can take your mower and break up all of the manure.  You can get a drag and spread around all the manure.  You can purchase a device to pick up the manure.  Or you can just ignore the issue and let the horses feed in their own manure.

The Cost of Horse Ownership and Your Pasture
As you were aware, there are costs involved in owning and caring for horses.  The biggest costs you will have in caring for horses will be health care and feeding.  A well maintained pasture can save you money on feed bills and on vet bills.  A pasture free of weeds and growing healthy can provide good nourishment and forage for your horses.  A pasture free of disease, bacteria and parasites will save you a great deal of veterinarian visits.  A pasture free of parasites will reduce your need to de -worm your horses.  A pasture free of manure will have less weeds overtaking grazing areas.  Rampant weed growth is a very fast way to increase your feed bills.

Manure is natural. Everyone will tell you this. But... it wasn't intended to be concentrated in large amounts on small pieces of land. Horses are herd animals that ranged over thousands of acres dropping manure and moving on to greener pastures. Large amounts of manure on small acreage is a problem.  When managed properly, horse manure becomes great fertilizer.  It should be composted before using. And then you can then spread the compost on crops to help them grow.  If you spread fresh manure, it will kill plants.  Manure has acids that will damage grass and crops.  Manure also contains seeds from weeds that the horses have eaten.  Those seeds will grow wherever they are deposited with the manure.  The best way to kill the seeds, and eliminate the acids, and kill off the bacteria, and kill the parasites is to compost manure.  In proper composting the compost heats up to 170 F.  It does this all by itself, you just have to manage the process.  Many people sell fertilizer as a side business or give it away to friends.

So think of your pasture as a large food source for your horses.  If you're dragging manure or mowing manure you are depositing manure on your horses’ food source.  Many horses will not eat where manure is present.  Horses that do eat where manure is present risk infection from other horses.  A drag or a mower can be effective if you can remove the horses.  If your horses can go to other pasture for 6 to 8 weeks then this method of pasture management can be effective, depending on your climate.  If your horses must remain in the same pasture then this method is bad for your horses and bad for your wallet.  In the long run your veterinarian bills will increase because of poor pasture management. 

As we have noted, proper pasture and manure management leads to healthier pastures, healthier horses and a better looking horse property. It also helps to greatly reduce the flies. Remove and compost the manure and the fly problem dwindles. Picking up manure and composting or removing it are the only options for some horse owners Some horse owners live in areas with high water tables or excessive streams. In some of these municipalities, local governments are requiring the collection and removal of horse manure because the nutrients from the manure leach into the water supply. These nutrients cause massive algae blooms within that water supply and greatly alters the ecosystem where it is found. In Ocala, Florida the Silver Springs once clear and beautiful now are green with algae. Horse manure and cattle manure are two of the main culprits.  In the states surrounding the Chesapeake Bay watershed, many communities have restrictions on horse manure remaining on the property. They are forced to collect and compost or collect and dispose of manure. Southeastern Florida has mandated the collection and removal of horse manure in many communities.

Some people like to take the shavings and manure from their stalls and spread them in the pasture with a manure spreader. Unfortunately the same issues apply to stall materials. This manure and urine soaked wood chips contain pathogens and seeds that need to be neutralized before they can be placed back into the environment. Composting stall waste is also a better approach than spreading it raw back onto the property. One thing to note is that many gardeners do not want the wood chips in their compost.

Managing Your Forage
Horses will graze the grass down to a stubble. These animals have evolved on the plains, and when not running from predators they spent their time grazing in a herd. When grazed out they would move on. In a confined area, the horses will still graze the grass down to a stub. They have not evolved as fast as we have, so we have to manage their grazing area for them. It is often preferable to have multiple pastures so that you can allow your grasses to recover. Your grasses should be maintained between 3 and 11 inches in height.  If your grass does not keep up with demand, then a sacrifice lot may be needed, where you allow that lot to go to dirt, and feed hay and grain to the horses here. Some people overgraze all of their lots and they all become sacrifice lots. Avoid this result at all costs.

By the way, being a herd animal – horses had natural enemies – predators. They would attack the horse’s neck to take them down. So as you mount your horse and put your arms around its neck – understand that this is a threat to the horse. Allowing you to be on its back and grab that neck is the most trusting thing your horse can show to you. It is overcoming centuries of flight or fight inbred into its thought patterns to allow you this close access. What an honor.

Manure Collection
Super Scooper Horse Manure Removal SystemThere are three options for collecting your horse manure from pasture and paddocks. The cost of the first option is under $100 and requires hours of your labor and backbreaking work. The first option is the labor intensive hand picking that was first described. Use a muck rake, and pick it up. It gets most of the manure, leaving only the crumbles behind that will dry out in the sun.

The second method costs between $4,000 and $10,000 plus freight and is a gasoline motor powered vacuum that can be used to pick up the manure. At the low end of the price range, you will drive around with a hose in your hand and vacuum up piles of manure by hand.  The vacuum unit is effective, leaves only a little residue, and does require some maintenance as does any motor driven piece of equipment. At the high end of the vacuum market, you have a pull behind unit that is very easy to use. It vacuums the manure from the ground, again only leaving some crumbles. It is easy to operate, and requires some maintenance as any motor driven piece of equipment would require.

The third option costs under $1,000 with several reasonable shipping options. This method utilizes an invention from Australia called the Super Scooper. The Super Scooper attaches to your tow vehicle and floats around behind you like a sled – picking up 90-95% of your horse manure. It can be used on hill, level ground, hard packed dirt and grass. It will pick up anything on the ground. Horse manure, dog poop, Alpaca manure, walnuts, apples emerged rocks, pine-cones and more. Maintenance is minor. A couple of parts to lightly lube, keep air in the tires, and occasionally spray paint the bottom if it gets scratched up. The Super Scooper is galvanized steel with a powder coated paint application. The patented Super Scooper has a fixed milled metal blade that picks up anything that goes over it, and smashes anything underneath it. It will help to fill in holes and clean up those mole holes. Over 5,000 are in use worldwide and are now being marketed in Australia, Europe and North America. 85 % of the users of the Super Scooper are women, and it as designed for a woman to be able to operate it. Discounts are offered to rescues, seniors, veterans and students involved in agricultural programs.

So plan and manage your pastures. Keeping pastures healthy keeps your horses healthier. Keeping your pastures healthy reduces your feed bills. Keeping your pastures healthy reduces your physical labor and reduces the time away from your horses. Most of all enjoy your horses – you are indeed one of the lucky ones.

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