Horse Manure Disposal: How to help the environment and save money while doing it

February 3, 2023
For Horses
horse stall

Here’s some tips to get rid of and manage horse manure.

If you have a horse, then at some point, you’ll have to figure out what to do with the manure. The average horse stalled full-time creates 12 tons of manure and soiled bedding each year. Depending on your farm setup and location, you have several options available to manage the mess. With the right method, you can save money and help the environment. Ready to find better ways to dispose of what can often be the bane of a horse owner’s existence? Here’s some tips to get rid of horse manure.

Proper management

Short-term and long-term, you’ll want to properly store your horse’s manure to prevent the spread of disease, flies and odors. That starts with removing manure and soiled bedding from your horse’s stall every day.

Conscientious manure management is even more important when your horse is in a suburban or residential location, to keep a positive relationship with your neighbors. With good management, you can vastly reduce the presence of odor and flies that can be a nuisance to neighbors.

 Where to store

horse manure storage

A covered concrete storage area is less likely to have leached water issues.

Carefully choose the location where you store your manure whether temporarily, or longer-term storage for compost. Make sure the manure pile is not in the path of rain runoff headed toward waterways so that you don’t pollute groundwater. Choose a site on higher ground, away from buildings and not in a paddock or pasture.

In a residential or suburban area, it’s also important to locate the site in an area not visible to—or upwind of—your neighbors. Depending on regulations in your area, you need to situate your manure storage a minimum of 100 feet from a property line, 500 feet from a residence or business, 200 feet from a potable water source and 200 feet from wetland or a surface water source such as a pond or river. You can install a tall fence or shrubs to screen the site from view. Additionally, the site should also be easily accessible from your barn.

If your storage area is on a concrete pad and covered, you’re much less likely to have leached water issues. If you do have runoff, make sure it’s diverted away from groundwater or other waterways. You want to have at least one wall to pile manure against, and to shield the pile from view.

Insect control

botfly aka horsefly

Dry out horse manure to reduce fly breeding in your barn.

The key to reducing fly breeding in your barn area is drying out your manure. Fly larva can’t hatch and grow as well when manure has been dried, but in moist manure with above-freezing temperatures, a fly egg can hatch in as little as seven days. And one fly can produce 300 million offspring in two months.  Who knew?

Drying out your manure reduces the chances of the fly lifecycle perpetuating. One way to do this is to spread your manure out in thin layers in an unused pasture. However, if you’re storing the manure  in temporary structures, cover the pile with a tarp or a roof of some sort. When storing small amounts of manure in a container, make sure that it has a tight-fitting lid.

During fly breeding season, it’s a good idea to either remove manure from your facility every seven days or compost it promptly.

 Odor control

If manure has access to oxygen as it decomposes, such as when it’s being composted, it generally will have no odor. A manure storage area will create odor because fresh manure is being deposited daily. This is why you need to locate your manure pile site away from neighbors.

 Pasture manure

horse pasture

Mounds of manure will kill grass.

If your horse lives in a pasture, you won’t have bedding to contend with, and manure will naturally be spread in larger areas. But for high-traffic areas such as near waterers, feed buckets, gates and shelters, you’ll need to remove the manure so it doesn’t pile up. Mounds of manure will kill the grass, look unsightly and could become a breeding ground for flies.  And if you’re in a suburban or residential area, with small paddocks and pastures, this is not an option—you’ll need to remove the manure frequently.


To properly dispose of manure by field application, you need a tractor and a spreader to ensure the manure is deposited in a thin, even layer. This encourages drying and better use as a fertilizer. You can spread manure weekly in the summer. Do not spread on frozen ground or near waterways to avoid pollution


compost horse manure

Horse manure is a highly desired fertilizer for gardening and landscaping.

When effectively composted, horse manure is a highly desired fertilizer for gardening and landscaping. Composting reduces the volume of the manure by at least half and kills parasite eggs in the process due to the heat created in the process. You can use this rich fertilizer for your own gardens or sell it to local landscapers.

If you pile the manure and let it sit untouched, it’ll take between 6 months to 2 years to compost, But if you manage the compost, monitoring the temperature every few days and mixing it weekly, you can compost that same amount in four weeks.

Composting in piles or bins that are at least three feet square by three feet deep is ideal—smaller piles won’t create enough heat to compost properly.

You want the temperature in the pile to reach 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit and maintain moisture of 50-60 percent. You may need to add water if you live in a drier climate. And you also need 5-15 percent oxygen, so aeration is important.

Compost is “mature” when organic matter is completely oxidized or degraded. You can test this by measuring the temperature of your compost pile. A mature pile will stay the same temperature after you’ve turned the contents. A still-composting pile will reheat quickly. You can also purchase a respirometry-based test kit for more precise assessment.

It’s important for compost to be completely mature before offering as fertilizer, otherwise it can compete with plants for essential nutrients, and can contain elements that are toxic to plants.

What’s legal?

raking horse poop

Check regulations before disposing horse manure.

Before disposing of your horse’s manure, check your state and local regulations for guidelines. You can find out what’s legal by contacting your local extension department, or your county conservation district.



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