Got horses? Got bugs! More than just a nuisance, these irritating creatures are responsible for a range of conditions from leg or hoof concussions, caused by repeated stomping, to anxiety-induced weight loss, to an allergic reaction known as eosinophiliac granulomas—seen as a series of raised bumps on the chest, back, or belly. And that’s just for starters. At their worst, insects also are known to be carriers of more serious and even potentially deadly diseases, including West Nile Virus.
When you consider that just one female stable fly, which is estimated to produce 20 batches of 40 to 80 eggs each, that typically hatch within 21 to 25 days, will ultimately foster millions of offspring, it is a given that keeping the fly population under control is essential to maintaining the health and welfare of the horses in your care.
CONTROL INSECT BREEDING AREAS
Since manure and soiled bedding are the leading hotbeds for pests, chief among them stable flies, horseflies, deerflies, horn flies and mosquitoes, it is yet another reason to keep stalls and paddock areas as clean as possible. The rest of the barn needs to be kept clean as well. Remove uneaten grain ASAP, keep areas around water buckets and water tanks dry, and fix leaky drains or faucets, as these areas can all become prime breeding sites.
If properly handled, the nutrients passed out in manure and urine can be recycled into the pasture to become viable nourishment for vegetation. A ton of horse manure not only provides organic matter and important trace minerals, it is equivalent to 100 pounds of 14 nitrogen-5 phosphorus-11 potash, also known as 14-5-11 fertilizer. But, regardless of whether you plan to use it in the pasture or not, waste must be removed from the stable area, as prevention is the best protection.
If you do not have pasture space or choose not to spread or compost manure, you can create a temporary stockpile until it can be hauled away. There are collection services that specialize in manure removal, or you can make arrangements with a waste management company to take the manure along with your other garbage. Make sure you choose a holding site far from the barn or paddocks and away from running water.
Another option is to spread the manure daily. To do this properly, distribute it in a thin layer, then harrow it in to promote quick drying. The drying process helps to impede parasite eggs and larvae growth. As a cautionary note, horses should not be allowed to graze on the spreading area during that season, to make sure the parasites have been eliminated. Even if it looks like the manure has been absorbed, the ground could still harbor larvae and eggs.
Composting is often the most convenient and cost-effective manure management solution. With proper collection and management, manure transforms into dark, rich organic matter that is highly prized as a soil conditioner and nutrient additive.
Manure passes through three phases before the decomposition process is complete, which can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months depending on the nutrient values present in the manure itself.