Most horses create between 8-14 piles of manure each day. When the horse is kept in a stall, for a partial or full day, it’s a relatively quick chore to pick up the piles. When the horse is turned out, those piles are spread out, especially if your horse doesn’t defecate in one or two spots.
It might seem like a staggering project to consider removing manure from your fields, but there are definite benefits besides providing more grazing opportunities. Being selective grazers, your horse tends not to graze grass that has been contaminated with manure. This means that not only is your pasture dirty but your horse has fewer grassy areas to graze.
Cleaning manure from pastures accomplishes several important things:
- It reduces internal parasite contamination;
- It eliminates breeding habitats for flies; and,
- It minimizes adverse effects on water sources from drainage across a manure-ridden pasture.
How to Clean a Field
The old fashion style of using a bucket and a rake is quite effective, but labor-intensive. It helps to have a small tractor, ATV, or even a golf cart to tow the bucket around while you pick up manure. If you keep up with the task every day, then it doesn’t become too cumbersome; but if several days go by, or if the ground (and manure) freezes and a long time elapses between cleanings, the job can seem overwhelming.
Others have considered this problem and have arrived at some solutions. While these solutions rely on equipment that costs money, it could be money well spent to maintain your horse property and make your time more efficient.
One piece of equipment designed for this task is a pasture vacuum, but these are fairly expensive and slow to use in addition to requiring a wheeled vehicle for towing it. Less expensive equipment choices that bear looking into include:
- The Tow & Collect Manure Collector https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXRr9JFrWc4. This unit uses a rotation brush mechanism that pushes manure into a hopper with a 165-gallon capacity.
- Sooper scooper (http://www.bigredbarnproducts.com or Superscoopeusa.com). This unit tows like a sled to sweep up manure as you drive past it; then when the unit is spun around and reversed, it has wheels that rotate from the hopper to the ground so it tows like a wagon to the manure pile. There, by tipping it over, the unit dumps its load like a wheelbarrow. On level grass, it is reported to have 90% pickup of manure; on hills, about 85%. A height adjustment is available to accommodate different ground.
Cleaning your pastures at least twice a week, just like picking up your paddocks, is one of the most effective ways to reduce the internal parasite burden on your horses. Most internal parasite larvae are introduced to the horse through consumption of pasture by larvae that migrate to the top of pasture grass stalks where they are then accessible to a grazing horse.
If you unable to clean your pasture and the pasture tends to be quite contaminated with manure, have your veterinarian run fecal egg counts once or twice a year and deworm accordingly, focusing on your highest egg shedders.
By Nancy S. Loving, DVM