Try these five easy suggestions for making your barn more environmentally friendly today.
By Allison Armstrong Rehnborg
Wearing green is a joyful and festive way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but there’s an even better way to honor the color green – and that’s by going green! As horse owners, we spend the majority of our time outside already, so an appreciation for nature and the environment is practically synonymous with our love for horses. One way to show that appreciation is by incorporating environmentally friendly practices into our daily barn lives. Although the concept of going completely green can feel overwhelming at first, the easiest way to start is by changing old habits or developing new habits, one day at a time.
Ready to try being environmentally friendly? Check out these five easy suggestions for going green!
Compost, compost, compost!
If you’ve got horses, then you’ve got a manure pile. That’s because one horse produces approximately 50 pounds of manure per day. Multiply that number by the number of horses you have on your property, and that’s a lot of manure. If you don’t have methods in place to manage that manure pile, it can easily grow out of control and attract pests, contaminate nearby groundwater sources and more. But there’s good news. With a little gender loving care, your manure pile can become a pile of gardener’s gold – also known as compost.
To compost properly, a manure pile requires air – so use a shovel or a small tractor to turn and aerate your pile on a regular basis. Compost also requires moisture and builds heat, so it’s important to monitor the temperature of your manure pile. Many people also choose to cover their manure pile with a tarp to help prevent rain from washing away the most valuable nutrients from the compost. To learn more about composting manure properly, reach out to your local equine Extension agent for advice.
Choose environmentally friendly products.
Think about all the products you use on a daily basis in your barn, from fly spray to medicine to shampoo to liniments and more. Each of those products probably contains chemicals or other compounds that may not be environmentally friendly. Consider making a swap every month until you’ve replaced all your horse products with green products. For example, Draw It Out’s new equine citronella spray – Citraquin – is a natural product that safely and protects your horse from the environment without pyrethrins, pyrethrums, pyrethroids or industrial pesticides. Citraquin deters deer, house, stable, horse and black flies, as well as ticks, mosquitoes and gnats, so it’s the perfect green product to try in your
Manage your pastures.
Pasture management will not only help the environment – it will also help your horses and may even help cut your feed bill by promoting grass growth. If you don’t already, start picking up all the manure in your paddocks and pastures on a regular basis. That will prevent groundwater contamination from manure runoff and also help stop dead grass spots from forming in your pastures. Practice rotational grazing to help prevent overgrazing. Overgrazing can lead to weed growth, which may tempt you to pull out the herbicides. You can also contact your local Extension office for help with testing the soil on your property – that way, you’ll have a better idea of how to care for and promote grass growth in your area. If you have pastures that lie fallow for a season or more, consider developing a system for spreading your compost and re-seeding your pastures on an annual basis.
Control pests with nature’s predators.
Rather than spraying chemicals around your property, encourage natural predators that can help cut down on your local insect population. Consider using predator wasps to control flies around your manure pile. Don’t chase away barn swallows from nesting in your barn; although their nests can be a little messy, they can help decimate the horse fly and house fly population. Just make sure the nests aren’t built near electrical sources, which may present a fire hazard. For your horses, start using fly sheets and natural fly products with citronella to repel insects.
Reduce, reuse and recycle.
Soda cans, soda bottles, empty medicine bottles, baling twine, plastics, disposable paper and plastic products – you’d be amazed how quickly the trash receptacle at your barn can fill up with these and other potentially recyclable products. Start sorting your trash into recyclables, consider reusing baling twine for other projects and find ways to reduce your use of one-time plastics. While you’re dealing with your trash, consider installing a sharps container nearby to ensure the safe disposal of used needles and syringes from administering vaccinations or medications.