Composting horse manure

Composting horse manure may be a viable option for horse owners that have limited land base resources.

Every horse owner has the responsibility to manage the byproduct of horse ownership. If you are guessing manure, you are correct! Managing manure can be challenging for horse owners due to many reasons which often include limited land base resources. Additionally, it doesn’t take long for manure to add up at 50 lbs. per day per horse. Let’s see: 5 horses x 50 lbs. per day x 30 days per month = 7,500 lbs. of manure per month and this doesn’t include bedding if horses are stalled. So, “manure” happens … Now what?

Have you ever tried composting? Contrary to popular belief, composting is not just piling manure behind the barn and leaving it to sit for the next 10 to 20 years. Composting is a managed biological process that creates an environment for microorganisms to break down organic material into a more stable, humus-like material. Therefore, there will be some effort involved to ensure that managed compost has the ability to reduce volume by approximately 50 percent or more.

Fully composted horse manure takes approximately 3 -6 months under well-managed conditions, dependent upon the composting method used. The following five factors need to be managed throughout the composting process to get a good compost product:

  1. Particle Size – range in size from 1/8 to 2 inches.
  2. Moisture content – 50 – 60 percent
  3. Oxygen – minimum of 5 percent
  4. Temperature – 130 – 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  5. Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio – 25 to 40 parts Carbon to 1 part Nitrogen. Horse manure is typically 30:1.

For more information on composting horse manure, check out the Michigan State University One Horse or a Hundred Bulletin Series What is Composting Anyway? andComposting, How do I do that?

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