Study Evaluates Horse Waste, Feed Management Practices

Researchers studied whether horse farms use best management practices to reduce environmental contamination.

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Feed and waste management practices to reduce environmental contamination are hot topics in today’s equine industry. There is a strong correlation between a horse’s daily feed consumption and the composition and amount of waste he excretes, and excess nutrients excreted in horse waste can contaminate waterways.

A group of researchers led by Michael Westendorf, PhD, associate extension specialist in the Rutgers University Department of Animal Sciences, conducted a study evaluating feed and manure management practices on New Jersey horse farms to develop a profile of what practices well-managed facilities are carrying out. The team said this would help them develop targeted best management practice (BMP) programs addressing areas of concern.

The team distributed a survey that included questions about feed and forage quality, feeding management, manure management, and pasture management to 700 owners of farms nearest to two major watersheds. From those, the team received 242 usable surveys.

The team evaluated the surveys to determine whether the horse farms were using BMPs to prevent water pollution and control runoff. On horse farms, potential contamination sources include improper manure disposal, incorrect manure spreading or fertilization practices, and overstocking pastures. The state of New Jersey requires that all farms store manure at least 100 feet from water sources, such as streams or wetlands, and 96% of respondents were in compliance with this regulation

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Written by:

Kristen M. Janicki, a lifelong horsewoman, was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and later attended graduate school at the University of Kentucky, studying under Dr. Laurie Lawrence in the area of Equine Nutrition. Kristen has been a performance horse nutritionist for an industry feed manufacturer for more than a decade. Her job entails evaluating and improving the performance of the sport horse through proper nutrition.

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