Manure Manager

Horse apples

June 2, 2010  by  Marg Land

The world is greening up outside my office window and I am loving every minute of it.

The world is greening up outside my office window and I am loving every minute of it.

When the spring begins, I get happy. I also start examining the hay field out behind my house, anticipating the first cutting. Thanks to the numerous rains we’ve experienced so far this spring, the hay crop is looking very healthy; so healthy in fact that I have been contemplating purchasing a new hay burner to help “control” the volume.

Of course, with the anticipation of a new horse on the property comes the added labor of cleaning and managing the additional manure, or horse apples, as my father called it. After all, one horse can produce about 18,000 pounds of manure in a year.

In light of this, I have been contemplating the various ways large horse facilities deal with their manure issues. Manure Manager typically has not dealt with horse manure management, focusing instead on large-scale livestock operations in the dairy, beef, hog and poultry categories. But it would appear equine operations have their own share of manure problems as well.

Recently, the Philadelphia Park Racetrack in Pennsylvania was served with an order to “stop polluting” from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. It would appear that storm water and wastewater from the Bucks County site is mixing with manure from the 1,200 horses housed there and running into a nearby creek.

According to the Pennsylvania DEP, the organization has been working with the racetrack for more than a decade to upgrade manure management but “the facility has failed to make sufficient improvements.”

The department is giving the racetrack about 120 days to make changes, which include halting the practice of washing manure into storm grates, implementing a water conservation plan, improving efforts to collect and manage wastewater, inspecting storm water and sanitary sewage systems weekly, stabilizing all bare earth throughout the site, replacing all existing manure storage systems with covered roll-off bins, applying for permits to build a covered manure storage facility, enclosing horse washing facilities, and submitting a revised nutrient management plan, just to name a few.

According to the Bucks County Courier Times, park management have been “blindsided” by the notice from the DEP, arguing they have been working with the department to make improvements and had no idea the park’s work to date had been unacceptable.

Philadelphia Park Racetrack management might want to look south for a new way of handling its manure issue. The Southeastern Livestock Pavilion near Ocala, Fla., is currently operating an anaerobic digester as part of a pilot project aimed at managing waste at the facility and producing electricity. Each week, about 10 cubic yards of horse manure is fed into the facility’s digester, which results in the creation of enough methane to produce 1,000 kilowatts of electricity every three weeks.

The project is currently small-scale, not large enough to properly handle the more than 1,500 cubic yards of horse apples produced annually by the facilities 120 weekly equine residents. It’s hoped that after the digester operates for a year, the company will evaluate its performance to determine whether it can be converted to a larger, commercial-sized operation.

Meanwhile, another digester company is busy marketing something they call the Muckbuster, a small, self-contained anaerobic digester that can be adapted to service various sized horse farms, anywhere from four horses to 35. The smaller digester, which can handle 200 liters of manure and bedding per day, is reported to be capable of producing around 7,148 kilowatts of electricity per year while the larger one can handle 2,000 liters of material and produce about 71,480 kilowatts annually.

With that kind of technology, I just might be able to buy two more horses.


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