Dealing with the Muck Pile

Everyone poops, but horses are particularly well known for their pooping.

I’ve been stalling my horses at night for about a month, and this has caused a large side effect. My horses are no longer out all the time, pooping where they please, and instead are pooping in stalls that have to be cleaned daily. I have to take a more active role in managing their manure. In the field, it’s much easier not to notice how quickly it builds up, even in their designated “bathroom” areas. Running that over with the bushhog helps clear it out quick.

First, let’s talk poop, because poop is funny. The average horse produces 50 lbs of manure a day. (Also weird, that stock photo they used. Who put a donut on poop, thinking to themselves, wow, that will make a great photo? If you have insight to this thought process, comment below.)

Poop is the home of parasites that want to live inside your horse and those incredibly pesky flies. Managing manure properly can significantly reduce the fly and pest population around the barn. Out in the field, breaking up the piles seems to be the best management, as judged by “easiest” and “still effective”. Despite “removing the poop” being an option, I don’t think I’ve ever been at a barn where someone goes out and physically removes the manure. Most of what I’ve seen is running it over with the tractor, either bushhogging it or running it over with a drag spreader. 

Inside the barn is a different story. Obviously you can’t just run a tractor through the barn, blitzing through, and knocking everything apart. Instead we go through the tedious process of “stall cleaning.” You might have done it once or twice, or three hundred thousand times.

Once upon a time, my thought process was limited to collecting everything, taking it to the muck pile, and never thinking about it again. Well, I wish I was still that innocent. Instead I now have a giant pile of poop taking up valuable space and continuing to expand. An insatiable monster that grows stronger by the day. 

My current solution of “do nothing” is not going to work long term, so it’s time to look at some other options. 

Get a Manure Dumpster

Dumpers can be rented by companies to put all the manure in. At regular intervals the company will come remove the full dumpster and replace it with an empty dumpster. 

This is a common solution for big farms dealing with lots of manure. It is probably the easiest solution, but it would be the most expensive. 

This is effective on either farms with a large volume of horses, or farms that are really tight on space. I fall more on the later, but I’m actually so tight on space, I wouldn’t have a spot to put a dumper. Significant improvements would be needed for this to work, including installing a driveway out to my barn, and more leveling. Although I would totally do this if I had the money, I do not, so I can not impliment this anytime soon.

Pros:

  • With the exception of loading the dumpster, no other work is required.

Cons:

  • Requires a flat space with vehicle access (not possible with my current set-up.
  • Expensive – quotes in my area run from $500-$1000 a month.

Spread It

Manure is loaded up into a spreader, pulled by a tractor, and driven to an area where the manure can be spread out. Because it is spread over a large area, it dries, and doesn’t kill the grass underneath.

To do this, one needs the proper equipment, a tractor and a spreader. I already have a tractor. A spreader can cost anywhere from $800 to $2,000. 

I already have the tractor, and while I’m not opposed to buying farm equipment as needed, I really don’t have the space to spread manure. I wouldn’t willingly dump it on my own pastures – manure has high nitrogen content that isn’t good for grass growth or the environment. It’s not the worst, but too much manure is a bad thing, not a good thing. I have a few other open bits of land, but nothing big enough for spreading, unless I trim up the forest a bit.

This doesn’t seem like a practical solution for me at this time.

Pros:

  • Physically the easiest. Drive up the tractor, toss the manure in the spread, and spread it. No other steps needed.

Cons:

  • The initial investment is high.
  • The continuing cost of running tractor, plus maintenance of spreader.
  • Requires open space to spread – something I have in short supply.
  • Spreading area could become inaccessible due to ground/weather conditions

Compost It

I wouldn’t be able to keep the manure where it currently is, but I’d set up a compost pile, and let the manure stew. Once it was ready, I’d have compost for the garden.

This seems like the most likely option for my small farm. Although it wouldn’t be expensive, it would still require some work to set up and maintain. I don’t want the compost pile where it currently is, but I also don’t want to have to travel far to dump the wheelbarrow. A possible solution is to create a manure drop off close to the barn, and then move the manure to a further away compost pile with the tractor. I’m also considering that I could use my tractor bucket to toss the manure directly in from the stalls.

The compost pile would take up room no matter where it is, but I’d like it not to be an eyesore. I will have to figure out where I could put the compost pile (or piles), as I think this is the only solution that will fit my current situation. It’s relatively cheap, although still requires set up, and I’ll have some nice compost afterward. But ughhhh, more work. Work never ends, I swear. It’s always something!

Pros:

  • Cheap(ish).
  • It provides a useful byproduct.

Cons:

  • Requires setting up of a compost area
  • Requires work to maintain
  • Will either be a further walk with the wheelbarrow, or will require a dumpsite close to the barn, and frequent removal with the tractor.

Composting is popular on small farms, so I’m not alone. If only there was another magical option that required no additional work at all. Maybe someone will invent that magical manure remover. Someone get on that!

What’s your manure solution? If you’re composting, any tips for the newbie?

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4 comments

  1. Compost compost compost!!! I love compost!

    Do you have a bucket on your tractor? You could park it for the week and dump the wheelbarrow into the bucket. Then when it’s full, or at the end of the week, turn on the tractor and move your bucketful to your designated compost area!!

    1. I do have a bucket! That’s a good idea. I didn’t like the idea of starting/stopping the tractor a whole bunch, doing it just once a week is great! Thanks!

  2. We have a large manure pile out in the woods. We used to take manure there daily, but now we have a larger manure dump that we can fill throughout the week and just dump once a week. It’ll take us years to fill that manure spot. I think even then my solution would just be to expand it. I’m not interested in composting more than a small amount for my very small garden. I don’t want to do spreading either, though I do need to invest in a drag to get the manure in the pastures more spread out.

  3. I have amanure pile that I comepost. I add to it for 6 months and then start the next pile while the 1st pile “cooks”. I turn it when I can with the tractor. Sometimes that may be once every 2 months. Once it is compost, I can either use on my field if a borrow a spreader or have it hauled away. So far, so good but I only have 2 horses.

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