By Patty Wilber
I was listening to a Stuff You Should Know podcast called “The Wind Cries Typhoid Mary” and it mentioned the unsanitary conditions in New York City in the 1800’s. They estimated the number of horses, determined the amount of poop/horse/day to be about 25 pounds, and concluded that more than SIX MILLION pounds of manure were deposited on the city streets EVERY DAY!
I found an extension site that estimated horses create 37 lbs of feces and 2.4 gallons of urine per day!
That made me think about input vs. output. If a horse that is not gaining or losing weight eats 20 pounds of hay and drinks 5-10 gallons of water (at 8.35 lbs/gallon), the horse is taking in between 60 and 100 lbs of material and excreting 25-37 lbs of poo and 20 lbs of pee for a total of 45 -67 lbs. The maximum input doesn’t quite match the maximum output, but that could be balanced by loss of water mass through breathing, sweating and normal evaporation on the skin.
Right now we have six horses x about 20 lbs of food per day or 43,800 lbs per year. At 25 lbs of fecal output per horse per day x 365 days, we generate 54,750 lbs of manure each year. Or if we go with 37 lbs of manure per horse per day, 81,o30 lbs! Who needs a gym membership if you have horses!
So, what to do with all that waste?
First off, it has to to be picked up. We have dirt pens and use plastic manure forks. We do not have bedding to deal with.
Forks come with a handle and a head. The heads break. It is possible to buy replacement heads.
I recently bought two of this type of head from State Line Tack (6 bucks) and each one lasted approximately two days before snapping.
I also ordered a more expensive (12 bucks) kind called Future Fork, and these are holding up. Dura Forks have also lasted.
After the manure is off the ground it has to be transported somewhere in something.
We use a wheelbarrow for transport. One of those big plastic two wheelers. It can double as a hay hauler and Jim can move six bales if he stacks them carefully. I can only move three.
The two wheel design beats the heck out of the one-wheeled style for stability. Also, hard tires rather than inflatable tires get my vote. Inflatable tires go flat.
We have bins in which we compost our manure. They have wooden corner posts and sheet metal sides. I have been known to cause trouble to all parts with the tractor. More on that in a moment.
In order to manage the manure, Jim (mostly) cleans the pens and dumps into the bins. We both use the tractor to pile the poo up, and when a bin is full enough, we cover it with plastic (which can sort of also be seen in the photo above). As each bin fills (we have three), we empty the oldest with the tractor and spread the (mostly) composted material around the property.
When we had just two horses, we could manage without a tractor, but now that we are up to over 54,000 lbs of organic equine output per year, the tractor REALLY helps.
The amount of composting that occurs depends on the moisture and the temperature, but composting definitely shrinks the volume during the couple of months each bin is “working”.
Emptying the bins does take time and some finesse with the tractor. Sheet metal tears, it turns out, if you catch it with the edge of the tractor bucket, and if you butt the support posts with that bucket, they might crack. I only do something like that once a year or so…
Doing the tractor work is pretty fun, and having the horses is amazing, so it is not all s**t work!