Rivera-Melendez, F. P.1; Lusk, M.2; Wickens, C.3; Hinton, J.4; Bollin, S.5
1Small Farm Extension Agent, UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, Seffner, FL., Seffner, FL, 33584
2Assistant Professor Urban Soil and Water Quality, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, Wimauma, FL, 33598
3Assistant Professor Extension Equine Specialist, UF/IFAS, Department of Animal Sciences, Gainesville, FL, 32611
4BMP Implementation Team, UF/IFAS, Gulf Coast research and Education Center Hillsborough County, Wimauma, FL, 33598
5Manager, Agriculture Industry Economic Development, Hillsborough County, Tampa, FL, 33602


Situation: Best management practices (BMPs) for horse farms comprise an integrated approach to reduce the environmental impact in Florida soils and wetlands. BMPs provide a nutrient management plan based on farm size, year-round forage availability, climate conditions, pasture fertilization, integrated pest management, and manure management strategies. Horse manure contains water, macro and micronutrients, and potentially pathogenic microorganisms. Unmanaged manure piles can result in pathogens, offensive odors, leaching of nutrients into groundwater, and contamination of water bodies from nutrient runoff, causing negative impacts for water quality, human and animal health. Composting is a practice through which nutrients can be recycled for use in pasture systems, gardens, and nursery beds. Effective compost management and use can improve soil conditions and reduces the amount of waste generated.

Materials and Methods: In 2017, a collaborative team of private sector, state agency, and University of Florida extension personnel (state specialists and county faculty) initiated formal meetings to address horse manure issues on small equine farms and provide solutions to reduce the environmental impact of manure waste in water bodies in Hillsborough County. As a result of these meetings, the team created a series of workshops held in June 2018 and April 2019 to improve horse owner knowledge of composting. Workshops consisted of a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on demonstrations. Topics covered included an introduction to the importance of water quality protection and BMPs, “how-to” compost, compost quality, and how to use finished compost. 

Results: A total of 44 people participated in the horse manure composting workshops. Program evaluations demonstrated knowledge gain (n=9) in the impact of manure on water quality, building a compost bin, proper location of compost bins, and how to use the compost in their operation. Sixty-nine percent of participants indicated they would share the information and knowledge gained with others. Fifty-four percent reported they would construct a composting area on their property, and forty-six indicated they will change at least one practice based on the information presented. 

Conclusion: Composting workshops have been effective in improving Hillsborough County horse owners’ awareness of on-farm nutrient management practices that promote water resource protection. 

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