Controlling Ammonia in Horse Stalls

One of the irritating compounds that can accumulate inside a horse barn is ammonia (NH3). High concentrations of ammonia in the air can irritate the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth and possibly increase the susceptibility of animals to respiratory infections. In animal buildings aerial ammonia arises from urine and feces, so ammonia concentrations are usually highest nea
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One of the irritating compounds that can accumulate inside a horse barn is ammonia (NH3). High concentrations of ammonia in the air can irritate the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth and possibly increase the susceptibility of animals to respiratory infections. In animal buildings aerial ammonia arises from urine and feces, so ammonia concentrations are usually highest near the floor.

Researchers at the University of Kentucky have examined the usefulness of an ammonia-absorbing compound applied to floors to control ammonia concentrations in horse stalls (Pratt et al, 2000, J. Eq. Vet. Sci. 20:197.) A commercially available ammonia-absorbing product (Sweet PDZ, Steelhead Minerals Inc.) designed for daily application to stall floors was tested in a four-stall barn containing mature Thoroughbred geldings. The dirt-floored stalls were cleaned every morning and bedded with straw.

All stalls were tested in the control condition (no ammonia-absorbing compound applied) and in the treated condition (ammonia-absorbing compound applied after cleaning in the morning). The researchers measured aerial ammonia concentrations expressed as parts per million (ppm) in two locations: near the horses’ heads with a device attached to their halters, and near the floor in the morning before the stalls were cleaned.

The ammonia-absorbing compound did not completely eliminate ammonia from the air in the stalls. However, stalls treated with the ammonia-absorbing compound had lower ammonia concentrations near the head and near the floor than the untreated stalls. At the end of two weeks, ammonia concentrations near the floor were about 25% lower than in the untreated stalls

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Written by:

Laurie Lawrence, PhD, MS, is an equine programs professor in the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment. Her research interests include nutrient requirements of broodmares and foals, nutrient requirements of exercising horses, equine digestive physiology, pasture and forage utilization, and equine exercise physiology.

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