Making your barn more environmentally friendly makes good business sense. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has Cooperative Extension programs across the country. Congress created the Extension system nearly a century ago to address exclusively rural, agricultural issues. At that time, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas, and 30 percent of the workforce was engaged in farming. Today, fewer than 2 percent of Americans farm for a living today, and only 17 percent of Americans now live in rural areas. But Extension agents still serve a purpose by helping farmers grow crops and small farm owners plan and maintain their acreage.
Many states have an Extension programs and can provide a wealth of information to barn managers. Two of the ways that can help keep your farm environmentally friendly are through mud and manure management. The first thing they suggested is to put gutters on your barn or any outbuildings. Rain can make a waterfall off the sides and front and rapidly turn the openings into mud. With this easy fix of gutters directing water away from the openings, going in and out of the barn is a much easier process. Another option is to collect the water from the gutters and store it in a rain barrel to irrigate your garden or pasture in the summer.
The second suggestion is to establish a sacrifice area for the horses during the wet, winter months. By keeping them off most of the pasture when the grass is easily destroyed by hoofs, it allows them to have much more useable pasture the following summer. To keep pastures healthy during the summer, they also suggest rotational grazing. Using simple temporary fencing, horses are moved around the pasture each week, never allowing them to graze down more than 4 inches. Once the horses are moved off that pasture, it is given a chance to rest and regrow before the horses are put back on. To keep the horses and pasture healthy, manure is picked up every day in the stalls, paddocks and sacrifice area, and the pastures are dragged weekly to break up and spread the manure for fertilizer.
A horse can produce over 50 pounds of manure each day. One of the best ways to turn manure into a valuable commodity is to compost it. Compost, a combination of manure and other materials, is an excellent natural fertilizer. Once composted, you can give it away to friends who want to naturally fertilize their gardens, sell it to nurseries, or keep it yourself for your own garden. By taking what can be a nuisance around the farm and turning it into an income producing resource, you are literally “taking lemons and making lemonade!”