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Project Summary: Best Management Practices for Equine Farms

Project Summary: Best Management Practices for Equine Farms

By Donna Foulk

In 2011-2012, Penn State Extension received a grant from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) to help farm managers implement practices to increase the canopy cover and desirable forages in pastures, reduce nutrient and sediment loss from farms, and reduce the overfeeding of nutrients in the ration.

Fourteen farm owner/managers that completed the Environmental Stewardship Short Course were selected to participate.  The farm partners worked with Penn State Extension to select and implement one or more Best Management Practices (BMPs) on their farm. BMPs were chosen to increase pasture canopy cover and improve pasture quality by increasing perennial grasses and desirable forages. These practices help to reduce erosion and soil loss from the farm. Most literature reports the need for maintaining 70-75% vegetative cover in pastures to minimize the risk of erosion.  In addition, horse rations were evaluated to reduce overfeeding of nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus. This is because excesses of these nutrients are excreted in manure and urine, and they can cause environmental damage to ground and surface water.

Some BMPs that were implemented on farms include:

  • Development of heavy use areas/stress lots to reduce grazing pressure and increase canopy cover and pasture quality.
  • Implementation of rotational grazing plans.
  • Adoption of an intense rotational grazing program that involves constructing paddocks and moving horses on a weekly or daily basis.
  • Renovating pastures based on a management plan which provides weed control, fertilization and overseeding recommendations.
  • Fencing stream corridors to restrict horse access to streams.
  • Managing water flow on heavy use areas by constructing bioswales.
  • Ration evaluation and modification to reduce excess nutrients in manure.

The following farms were participants in this project, and they are committed to adopting practices that maintain healthy horses, healthy farms, and a healthy environment. Learn about their implementation of Best Management Practices, the challenges they faced, and how they made it work.

Source : psu.edu

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