Horse Manure black gold goes green

horse with flames

A New Reason to Compost Horse Manure By Josh Nelson

Manure Management that saves you money and warms you

As horse ownership continues to increase, so increases the human population. We are all competing for space and need to optimally manage our environment and resources for long term sustainability. Much can be done to make stables more environmentally friendly. One of these beneficial practices is composting of manure, bedding and organic materials generated around the farm.

Compost use has numerous benefits for the soil and environment, but most importantly, converting your fresh manure and bedding to compost will help protect fresh water supplies close to or on your property. Clean water supplies are a dwindling resource upon which we all depend for life. Be proactive and look at your options to protect resources and better manage your operation. You may even find you can save or make money!

A handful of compost
Image via Wikipedia

Whether you are managing a few horses at home in a rural environment, or managing a sixty horse facility in the shadows of an urban based community, horse manure is a reality that has to be addressed daily. In some regions, new State and Federal regulations mandate how horse manure, stable bedding and organic waste should be managed so as to be environmentally compliant. Lets’ look at the reasons horse manure needs to be better managed;

Why Compost?

  1. The average 1000 lb. horse generates about 50# of manure and urine daily. This amounts to about 9 tons, or 730 cu. ft. of horse manure annually.
  2. Non composted manure becomes a breeding ground for air borne pests and flies.
  3. Composting manure and bedding kills fly larvae reducing air born pests.
  4. Composted manure kills weed seeds aiding in weed control when used on pastures, fields, gardens or landscaping.
  5. Leachate from untreated manure can contaminate ground and surface water sources. Horse manure and urine are high in salts.
  6. Run-off often contains fecal coliform and therefore, stockpiled or raw manure should be kept at least 150 feet from well heads, creeks and ponds.
  7. Horse manure contains bacteria and often parasites. Proper composting will kill these and reduce risk of transmission to horses, animals or humans.
  8. Horse manure and soiled bedding takes up a considerable amount of space. If you own horses, you know!
  9. Manure management requires human and equipment resources on a daily or routine basis to manage it. For larger equine facilities, this is an operating expense. You pay dearly for what goes into your horses. Why not try and get some benefit back from what comes out!
  10. If manure and bedding is hauled off site, possibly the service cost is increasing due to rising fuel prices associated with vehicle operation. Processing it on-site might be more cost effective with additional benefits which are discussed below.

Well made compost is an asset, not an environmental or economic nuisance. Look at it as a resource, not an expense. Stabilized compost can be used in numerous applications or sold to those recognizing its’ benefits. It can be applied to hay fields, turn out pastures, landscape and gardens. Once stabilized and dried, it can even be used in your arena as a percentage of your footing.

Applying and using compost increases soil health and if used annually, reduces plant watering requirements. Healthy soil achieved through increased compost use will promote healthy plants which increases their resistance to drought, disease and pests.

From a gardening and farming perspective, increased compost use means less purchased fertilizer and reduced use of chemical based herbicides and pesticides which can harm you, your animals, wildlife and infiltrate ground water. Compost use helps promote a cleaner and healthier environment for all, including horses, pets and people on your property.

Hopefully many of you are composting on some level already, if you are, Congratulations! If you are not, hopefully this article will help move you in a new direction. For current and ‘wannabe’ composters, here is a great new incentive.

Reduced Operating Costs

Costs related to farm and stable operations continue to increase. Some due to escalating fuel costs. If you live in a region where it is cold several months out of the year, you have already experienced the painful cost increases associated with heating. Wow, wouldn’t it be neat if you could turn your horse manure and bedding into free heat and have a usable or marketable compost product as the end product! Well now you can. Composting technology has evolved to a new level which makes heat recovery economically viable.

The technology has been in use for over one year in northern Vermont, taking the soiled bedding from a 1000 calf rearing facility, composting it and using it to heat both hot water and channel hot water through tubes buried in the concrete aisles of a 250′ long barn using radiant floor heating. When it is -20 F outdoors, it is a comfortable 40F in the barn, making it the perfect temperature for calves and people. The same can be done for horse facilities. Various systems are in development applicable to small, medium and large scale livestock, poultry and equine facilities.

Heat Recovery from Compost

Aerobically composted materials when properly managed in volumes of several yards, or more, will generate heat in the range of 120-165 degrees (F), for extended periods (several weeks) while decomposition takes place. Reactivating of the thermophylic heat generation in the composting process occurs every few weeks during the first 30-60 day period as material is moved which results in aeration. Systematically managing the compost from beginning to end generally takes about 120 days and is then stock piled for a few weeks or longer prior to use or sale.

The heat recovery system is based on construction and positioning a series of PVC pipes
in the sub-floor of a composting pad below ground level where tractors or equipment will not hit, crush or damage the pipes. Pipes are protected below the floor level by rigid grates level with the floor. Air channels are left around the pipes so hot air vapor generated by the compost pile can be pulled down, through the pipes and into a collection chamber where the steam makes contact with a series of ‘isobars’ (sealed tubes) which instantly collect and transfer the heat energy. The captured heat is then passed through another series of isobars which are immersed in a large insulated tank, heating that water.

The resulting hot water can then be used in closed loop, radiant floor heating systems or to heat hot water tanks used for washing, rinsing, etc. In new building design and construction, radiant floor tubes can be incorporated directly into concrete or aisle floors. For larger equine facilities, radiant floor tubes can be incorporated into the base layer of riding rings and arenas, providing radiant heat up and from the footing material.
For smaller horse operations, small scale systems are under development which will accommodate hot water and space heating needs for smaller areas.

Therefore, for a large enough facility incorporating a heat recovery system into their composting process can supply all of your facilities needs and generate finished compost which will be of higher quality and value. The compost can then be used on your facility or sold locally to landscapers and regional residents who recognize the benefits and merits of good organic soil material.

Financial Incentives

Incorporating composting into your farm operation now makes more sense than ever. Take a look at what your manure handling and related costs are. Also look at what you are spending annually for electricity and fuel related to hot water and space heating needs on the property. Odds are it is a significant expense. Investing in heat recovery from compost production may just be the incentive you’ve been waiting for to make some ‘green changes’ on the farm.

As well, many State and Federal programs are in place which can help offset the cost of these systems. This technology qualifies for cost sharing and tax credits in numerous states under both energy conservation and environmental protection programs. Check with your local NRCS, Cooperative Extension and USDA offices, or, contact us and we will be glad to help.

Composting Resources:

A wide array of information is available on the internet and in book form on composting technology and techniques. Please refer to these sources for direct information.

EZ STACKTM Composting Systems & WashWand

About the Author

Josh Nelson is a Master Composter and works with private and public entities consulting on methods to increase recycling efficiency globally. His work focuses on issues relating to agricultural and environmental sustainability. He is a successful inventor and has developed several products for the horse, pet and composting industry. He can be reached at : washwand [at] (remove the spaces and add @ for the [at]) EZ STACKTM Composting Systems and WashWands


Note from Joni

Going green with black gold – use that horse manure to save money and help the environment at the same time! So we just learned that horses can warm your heart both mentally and physically. I happen to love horse manure, yep, I did say love. I don’t bother with composting it. I just collect it and use it like mulch around all my plants and I do buy composted horse manure too. I do get weeds coming up in it since my two ponies are on pasture but they are easy to pull out, hoe out, or eat out. I eat many wild pants.

I find such great horse info on the Internet. Today I even found Horse Manure Cartoons

Manure in the news…

The power of … horse manure?

In Wellington, Florida, they plan to build a plant that will burn horse manure to create energy to be sold to power companies. The proposed plant would use yard waste as well as manure to generate energy. Why not? Wisconsin dairy farms are using the same technology for cow manure.

Fun Manure facts

(It is amazing all the horse manure info I found on the Internet)

Horse manure has one of least offensive manure odor of any animal droppings.

If you blow air through your manure pile it composts faster! Better and Faster Horse Manure Composting using air Create the black gold quicker with less problems.

Manure tea is great for your garden plants.

Horse manure is good for all kinds of orchids. There is a whole site on growing orchids in horse manure — Horsemanure, the Perfect Orchid Growing Medium – Promoting horse manure as an orchid growing medium. Wonder photos of Orchids in bloom are on the site too.

Noun 1. horse manure – horse excreta used as fertilizer
manure – any animal or plant material used to fertilize land especially animal excreta usually with litter material

Horse manure clue to – First Domestic Horses – Traces of ancient horse manure have been found in a remote 5,600-year-old Kazakh villagea discovery that could be the earliest known evidence of horse domestication.
– National Geographic

Horse manure is recycled grass… unlike a plastic bag, if you leave manure on the ground, it will quickly dry out and disappear with no intervention on the part of mankind. The human excrement of debris and trash never goes away and cannot recycle itself as can horse manure.
– EnviroHorse website

I even found a web page with Horse Manure Quotes. Here is one of the quotes:’Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around encouraging young things to grow.’ – Hartford Courant

Here is a horse quote I found: “…there isn’t a surfeit of Americans who want to shovel horse shit and scrub horse’s asses all day long.” – Andrew Leonard

Mushroom growers will only use horse manure that is mixed with straw – no wood chips or sawdust.

The temperatures reached in composting horse manure are among the highest attained in manure composting. Horse manure generates so much heat when composing in large piles, that is has been known to spontaneously combust.

Hot-selling horse manure – Manure is the key ingredient in the recipe for Sweet Peet, a premiere organic garden mulch. A finance director turn manure queen, and her manure business did $144,000 in 2007! That is a lot of horse manure or like I like to call it black gold!

FACT: Horse manure on trails carries no disease of any danger to humans: no Giardia, no Cryptosporidium, no e coli, no Salmonella. Horse manure is all but 12 percent water. On a trail horse manure dries up and completely disappears in less than 12 days.

A ton of horse manure will supply the equivalent of a one-hundred pound sack of 14-5-11 fertilizer as well as providing valuable organic matter and trace elements. – Manure Management

My last but not least fun fact on horse manure:

“It can promote human health as well! In May 2003 I am 93 years old and still healthy after growing orchids in horse manure for more than 20 years. The manure may not be directly responsible for this but the enthusiasm caused by it’s ability for plant growth certainly helps!” – Nic van den Bosch
Note:Nic van den Bosch passed away on 29th November 2005 at the grand age of 95.

Where do you go for horse manure info? Try contacting your local Agriculture Extension Agent. You may want to request, Manure and Pasture Management for Recreational Horse Owners, Item BU-7540-GO.

Manure Videos

(Yes there are videos online about manure! gave 78 “Horse Manure” video results!)

Good manure makes good neighbors

Two Men In A Bath Of Manure

The ShakerThe latest innovation in horse stall cleaning

Manure! The joy of manure – how to get it, use it and spread it about!

Adding horse manure to the garden


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6 Replies to “Horse Manure black gold goes green”

  1. Here is a good article to read to learn more about the importance of compost for the earth and life on it…

    Finding the Powerful Forces of Nature in the Compost Pile
    Thursday, January 01, 2009
    by: Dr. Phil Domenico, citizen journalist

    Most horse people want their horses to be healthy and many of them buy supplements for their horses. If you have a pasture good compost is one of the best soil supplements and it will give back to your horse with grazing grass that is higher in minerals.

    Healthier soil equals a healthier horse! Learn to compost and add to your horses’ health.

  2. Thanks for the tip on selling composted horse manure. While we use most of it, each horse does produce about 8-9 tons a year, so….we have some excess!

    This is our first year having a garden; we used to be in suburbia, but now have a 20 acre farm (where we plan to live in until we die). My wife is the “horse expert”; I am the gardener (no expertise; just learning this year!), and the “manure manager” (not the best title on a resume, but I am reitred, so.. that’s ok!)

    Anyone who has horses and land should take the time to build composting bins for the manure. It doesn’t take that much work (I did it, and I’m not at all handy); it is so much better for the environment; it produces an incredible fertilizer; and again, well jeepers, it’s just the right thing to do. And in today’s world where prices of everything seem to be skyrocketing, having a garden using that manure seems to be just, well, a good thing!

    And if you produce more than you can eat, there are plenty of folks around who would be more than happy to have fresh produce (with no chemicals or other “icky” stuff) to eat. In fact, yesterday I took around tomatoes to my neighbors who don’t grow them.

  3. Dear Thomas,

    I love horse manure so much because all my plants do so well on it. Just reading your comment gets me excited because I really want more people to discover this black gold that others consider a waste product.

    You can sell the composted horse manure to gardeners. I buy it and I have two ponies of my own, but need more than they can give me for my gardens. If you lived close I would be contacting you about buying some of yours.

    Did you know that you and your family are getting more nutrients now than if you just ate vegetables bought from the store? You can pick and eat them fresh and they are much higher in nutrients than vegetables grown on soil lacking minerals and with chemical fertilizers.

    I am enjoying the fact that I too have extra tomatoes that I can give my sisters and brothers that don’t have a garden.

    Keep spreading the good news about the wonders of horse manure!

  4. We have three horses, and we built three composting bins. The manure pile heats up tremendously for the first two months, and by month three, the first compost pile is less than half its original size, and we use a manure spreader to spread it out in our 10 acre open field. We also used the composted horse manure in our garden, and boy, did it do well! In the spring we had excellent spinach, lettuce, broccoli, radishes; now in the summer the tomatoes are producing way faster than we can eat them, and we are giving them away; same thing for the zucchini; the sweet corn stalks are over 6 ft tall and just about ready to harvest; and the mammoth sunfllowers are on average about 11 ft high and just starting to flower. Oh, and the sugar baby watermelons are doing well, though we’ve been having problems telling when they are ripe for picking.

    This is the first year we had a garden; we read all the stuff on composting horse manure last year; and it is clearly the way to go. I actually think we could sell the composted horse manure to gardeners!

    If you have horses, build some compost bins; it’s not hard (I’m about the most “unhandy” person I know. It’s good for the environment; it’s good if you have a garden and/or fields that might need fertilizer; and, jeepers, it’s just good!

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