Mill Creek Equine Waste Management Workshop – A Big Success!

Marion SWCD hosted an Equine Waste Management workshop at Scott Creek Farm, Tuesday March 12.  Horse and stable owners came together to learn one thing – how to manage manure.  A single horse yields about 50 pounds waste per day, and that can add up! 

A practical small-scale compost system was shared through Snohomish SWCD’s YouTube on Composting and Manure Storage. Smaller horse facility owners liked the solution that works with their time and labor constraints.

Attendees then compared the benefits of compost and manure.  They learned that manure and compost amends soil and can be a source of plant nutrients. Both can be spread several times a year, are primarily organic and can help prevent nutrient leach.  It is free, horse owners have a great supply onsite.

With manure, the bad news is it breaks down and can’t always be used effectively, and manure can contain parasites.  Medicines, like horse wormers can stay in manure and be ingested and cause problems in dogs and other animals.  Although it contains a lot of water; manure has weed seeds and salt and can be combustible, with drought conditions in the summer it can be dangerous.

With composting, it takes more money and time to manage. There is a higher cost in setting up a working compost system.  There is an extra cost to managing the composting system.  Staff must understand the chemical process of creating compost and be willing to be diligent in checking and making adjustments.

Regardless of whether owners want to work with compost or manure, storage is a major component.  What are the waste storage options? Manure and compost must be stored, because in the Willamette Valley six months of the year it is too wet to spread manure.  But where can it be stored? Manure needs to be in a well-drained area.  It important not to store manure in paddocks or heavy use area, but still accessible to equipment to pick up and remove it.  The waste storage needs to be upland of streams and out of the floodplain.

What about the neighbors?  Care must be given to place waste storage facility away from the property line, business, house.  Also, check the distance to wells or other water, wetland, streams, ponds and subsurface drains.  Finally, the water table and proximity to bed rock should be considered.

Sizing the facility was discussed, questions included how many animals and how much manure do you have?  How long will it be stored? And of course, how much money is available to build it? What type of roof can we put on it, so we can still get in and out? Many ideas were shared; plans, technical expertise and grants applications are available for composting and waste storage facilities. 

Another solution that horse and stable owners intend to try is a Heavy Use Area (HUA), which is often called a “sacrifice area”.  This graveled area is set aside to house horses in the rainy season and keep their hoofs up and out of the mud.  The manure is cleaned from the area daily and stored until it can be spread or composted.

Not only are the horses healthier and happier, the damage to the pasture is significantly reduced.  Healthy productive pastures are a result of reduced hoof compaction, soil roots are not suffocated creating bare areas, pastures are not overgrazed. Several members were interested in implementing a Heavy Use Area. 

The workshop finished with a discussion of eight horse management concerns that can be solved with technical and financial support from Marion SWCD which included; Access roads, Fencing, Heavy Use Areas, Waste Storage, Composting Facility, Access Control (fencing out streams), Prescribed Grazing and Roof Runoff. Four participants either already have or will be implementing one or more of these practices on their farm through grants from Marion SWCD.

Attendees were treated to tour of Scott Creek Farm, this internationally known Miniature Horse Farm located in Aumsville.  Scott Creek Farm horses are double registered modern Arabian Miniature Horses. The horse stalls have individual turn outs and the tour highlighted their foaling barn and their 60 brood mares are preparing for foaling season. The barn featured a treadmill for the miniatures, an indoor heated wash rack and grooming center, veterinary supply office, wash room for blankets and supplies, a tack room, feed room, indoor arena and other amenities. 

In addition to the tour, owner Joanne Ross shared their attitude toward conservation. Explaining integrated floor drainage, the use of matting and geotextile in heavy use areas and gravel in exercise paddocks.  With assistance from Marion SWCD, they will begin construction on their composting facility to manage their manure.

If you need help or want information on Equine Waste Management in Marion County, contact Marion SWCD at 503.391.9927 or email [email protected] or [email protected].