Following along with the mud management theme I began several weeks back, one of the best ways to control mud from building up in paddocks is to have a good manure management program. Mud consists of dirt, water, and fine organic material. Manure is fine organic material, and one horse can produce 50 pounds of manure a day. That amounts to more than eight tons per year per horse! Add to that the 8 to 10 gallons of urine a horse generates in a day plus the wheelbarrow or more of bedding you use, and you can see that in no time at all you will have a virtual manure mountain – and an explanation for all that mud in the paddocks!

There are other concerns for the mismanaged manure pile as well; horses allowed to graze near their own manure are quickly reinfested by larvae that hatch from the worm eggs. Runoff from soggy manure piles can cause serious surface and ground water contamination problems, something which is strictly controlled in many parts of the country. Then there are the associated odor and fly problems--if you live close to others this may concern your neighbors as well.

There are many useful ways to manage manure. You may have some ideas or experiences yourself which you’d like to share. Here are some ideas I’ve come across over the years:

Store manure and apply it to pastures. Manure is a great fertilizer. Applying manure back to pastures creates a natural nutrient cycle that will save you money--one horse produces about $150-$300 in fertilizer value each year. 

Compost manure and apply it to pastures, gardens, flowerbeds, etc. Composting reduces the amount of manure you have by about 50 percent. It also kills worm eggs, pathogens, fly larvae, and weed seeds while providing a valuable soil amendment. It is also safer for the environment than straight manure.

Give away manure. If you advertise well and your pile is in a location that’s easily accessible, you may be able to attract enough people to take all your manure. 

Give away or sell your compost. Compost can be a lot easier to give away, or even sell, than straight manure and stall waste. If you’ve got nice compost you probably won’t have to work too hard to get people to come and take what you produce. If you’re able to deliver it to landscapers, tree farms, or topsoil companies you might be able to charge for it and actually make a profit on your compost.

Haul manure (or have someone pick it up) off your premises on a regular basis. Paying to dispose of manure off-site may be the easiest way to go if you have a mountain of manure, lack of storage space, or don’t have time to research or implement other options. Some compost or topsoil facilities rent containers they will deliver and pick up. They usually charge pick-up, rental, and disposal fees, so this is often a pricey option. Your local garbage hauler may be able to pick up and haul away stall waste as well.  

Having a manure management system on your horse property will greatly reduce the amount of mud in your horse paddocks, save you money in the long run, make your place chore efficient, and keep the environment a lot healthier, too.