Skip to main content
Soil Testing

To Spread or Not to Spread

Composting BinsMany horse farm owners rid of their stall waste by spreading it onto their pastures and think they are doing best by their pastures as well as eliminating the manure problem. While spreading manure can be a beneficial soil amendment, there are a couple of things to keep in mind to reap the most benefits and lessen environmental concerns.

A large component of most stall waste is pine shavings, a substance that is extremely carbon rich and requires a lot of nitrogen to breakdown, making the process timelier. When raw waste is spread, the grass you are trying to promote ends up competing with the pine shavings for nitrogen and the grass typically loses. Fresh, raw manure also poses a risk of weed seeds and parasites being spread onto your pastures since it has not composted, a process that would kill the pathogens. Nitrogen, the nutrient primarily responsible for the manure’s ability to improve soil and crop potential, must become stable which requires a period of active composting and microbe breakdown of the material. Raw manure doesn’t contain a stable form of nitrogen, which means nutrient leaching is a concern, especially if a water source is near.

The other common misconception is that you can spread manure at any rate, which is definitely not a best management practice. UF/IFAS recommends testing your soil as well as testing your manure to develop an agronomical rate to spread manure onto your land. Your local Extension office will have the materials for both of these tests as well as further instruction on how to send off your samples for testing.

Ultimately, the best management practice for spreading horse manure is to not spread it raw; compost the material first. Also, be sure to spread only at a rate that is agreeable with the nutrients needed for your pastures and the crop that is growing. If done properly, manure can be converted into a valuable resource that could reduce the overall amount of fertilizer needed on your pasture.