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Horse Manure Management:
Bedding Use
 

Michael Westendorf, Ph.D., Extension Specialist in Animal Sciences and Uta Krogmann, Ph.D., Extension Specialist in Solid Waste Management

Published 5/19/2006

Fact Sheet #537


Stall Waste Production:

A 1000-pound horse will defecate from 4 to 13 times per day. This horse will produce 35 to 50 pounds of manure daily, or about 9 tons per year. On the average, about 31 pounds of feces and 2.4 gallons of urine daily, totaling up to 50 pounds of raw waste per day in feces and urine. Typically a ton of horse manure from an exercising horse will contain 12 pounds of nitrogen (N), 6 pounds of phosphorous (P2O5), and 9 pounds of potassium (K2O). (A ton of horse manure from a sedentary horse will contain 7 pounds of N, 2.5 pounds of P2O5, and 2.5 pounds of K2O.) A horse kept in a stall will require 8 to 15 pounds of bedding per day. This could be a wood byproduct (sawdust, shavings, or chips), straw, hay, or paper. Manure plus bedding will have a volume of 2 to 3 cubic feet per day(2,3,5).

 

Soiled bedding should be removed from stalls daily and replaced with fresh bedding. Soiled bedding may equal 2 to 3 times the volume of manure, depending on management practices. Each stalled horse may require the removal of 60 to 70 pounds of waste per day. This results in between 12 and 13 tons of waste per stall per year with 9.0 tons being manure, and the remainder, bedding from a 1000-pound horse. The density of horse manure is about 62 lb/ft3, not counting bedding. Annual stall waste from one horse will fill a 12' x 12' stall about 6-feet deep. This leads to a steady stream of manure to handle.

 

Bedding Materials:

There are several materials commonly used (1,3,4) as bedding for horses. Tables 1 and 2 describe some of these. The following are not recommended for horse stall bedding: black cherry or walnut wood products.

 

Table 1. Density of bedding materials

 

Black walnut (Juglans nigra) shavings will cause laminitis or founder, so all hardwood shavings are often avoided on the chance that walnut is mixed in. Be careful when getting shavings from a lumber yard or similar source, hardwoods may be mixed in.

 

Although straw is traditionally the most widely used bedding source, many other sources are used. Pine shavings or sawdust will result in less disposable material than straw but cannot be disposed with mushroom producers as straw can. Wood shavings, sawdust, and straw are all relatively absorbent. Straw may not be the bedding of choice for horses that have a tendency to consume it. Oat straw is generally more palatable than wheat, rye, or barley straw. Straw can also be musty or contain straw mites. Many horse producers, particularly owners of racing or performance horses, prefer shavings because they are less dusty and may result in less respiratory irritation.

 

Corn stalks or corn cobs can be used if ground prior to use. These are absorbent but may not always be available. Recycled newsprint may also be used. It is pollen-free and has less dust than straw or shavings. Although it is soft, it soils easily and is not as absorbent as other bedding sources. A further concern is its combustibility. Non-traditional sources such as pelleted wood products may provide acceptable bedding. A number of these products are available commercially. They expand readily when water is added, are absorbent and easy to handle, and may be especially useful on small horse farms.

 

The type of bedding used will also affect the fertilizer value of manure. For example, wood products (especially pine) will break down much slower than straw and many cause nutrients to be released more slowly from the manure. Although a variety of bedding sources can be used effectively, they should all be considered as part of a farm’s management plan. Any nutrient management plan implemented on a farm should take into account how the bedding source used will influence the management of manure nutrients on a farm.

 

Bedding Selection:
The following should be considered when selecting bedding(1): 1) availability and price, 2) absorptive capacity, 3) ease of handling, 4) ease of clean-up and disposal, 5) non-irritability from dust or allergens, 6) texture and size, and 7) fertility value of the resulting manure. Please see Table 3 for other bedding properties.

 

Table 2. Absorption of bedding materials

 

Bedding should be absorbent, non-toxic, dust-free, comfortable to horses, available, disposable, unpalatable, and affordable. The more absorbent a bedding is, the less that will have to be used. All beddings should be stored in well-ventilated areas to remain as dry as possible prior to use.

 

Wastes:
It is important that other materials such as trash, plastic bags, baler twine, needles, syringes, veterinary supplies, and pesticide containers be removed from bedding. They should never be allowed into the manure pile. Needles in particular will pose a health risk to anyone who comes in contact with them. These kinds of materials should never be disposed of with bedding, regardless of how bedding is disposed.

 

References:

1. Antoniewicz, R. J. and A. A. Cirelli, Jr. 1993. Replacing Nature’s Bedding. Horse Industry Handbook. American Youth Horse Council. Lexington, KY.

2. ASAE. 2005. Manure Production and Characteristics. American Society of Agricultural Engineers. ASAE D384.2 Mar. 2005.

3. Horse Facilities Handbook. 2005. MidWest Plan Service. Iowa State University. Ames, IA.

4. Strategies for Livestock Manure Management. Washington State University Cooperative Extension of Kings County. Agriculture and Natural Resources. Fact Sheet # 539. September, 2002.

5. Wheeler, E. and J. S. Zajaczkowski. 2002. Horse Facilities 3: Horse Manure Stable Management. Pennsylvania State University. University Park, PA.

 

 

 

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