Manure Management – Part 1 Odor

Although my mother always called it a good clean smell; with an increase in what land use planners call “the rural urban interface” many people now living in the country are not always appreciative of the smells that come with their choice of location.

Like it or not one of the primary concerns on any horse farm, large or small is with the manure produced by the equine occupants. Site selection, hygiene, ventilation and waste management are the keys to controlling offensive odor generated by manure and urine. Let’s look at hygiene and ventilation as they relate to odor control.

One 1000-pound horse produces an average of 31 pounds of feces and 2.4 gallons of urine a day. Add to that soiled bedding and the results are more than fifty pounds of waste per stall. To put that into perspective that is 1,500 pounds a month or about the size of a small car.

The first step is knowledge of what causes the odor; the two main odor producers are manure and urine.

Odors from the decomposition of manure arise when there is not enough oxygen mixed with the manure. Good drainage, absorbent bedding and daily cleaning will help to minimize offensive odors.

Urine’s offensive odor is caused by ammonia. Horses fed a high protein diet generally can’t absorb all of the protein and this results in excess nitrogen in the form of ammonia creating a wetter and smellier stall.

Hygiene – properly cleaning stalls and paddocks

Removing not only manure, but also urine and soiled bedding, wet bedding from under the water bucket and uneaten hay from the stalls daily goes a long way toward controlling odor. All of these factors encourage bacteria growth.  Lime or zeolite can be spread over the wet area after urine is removed to help absorb remaining moisture and gases and to neutralize any remaining ammonia. Adding clean dry bedding in the form of wood shavings, pellets, straw or chopped hemp (more about this option in later blogs) will also help to keep the stall smelling fresh. Outdoors picking up manure daily and liming any wet areas is also a good idea.


Horses produce heat and moisture in a barn add this to the gases from the decomposition of waste materials and odors will intensify.  Stall doors and windows provide natural ventilation as do doors at both ends of the barn aisle. Fans are usually needed—at least in warm weather—to supplement natural ventilation.  This can be a simple box fan hung from the ceiling or on a stall door to complex pressure ventilation systems using fans to force fresh air into the barn, while the stale air flows out through vents or exhaust ventilation systems that use fans to pull stale air out of the barn while fresh air flows in.

Here’s a short video about small acreage manure management

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Shelly Ingram

I am a third generation horsewoman; My father operated a 50 horse boarding and training facility in northern California, where he specialized in re-training spoiled horses. I was his demonstration rider and general assistant in all aspects of running the ranch. I went on to work for several major show and race horse trainers, eventually opening my own barn where I focused on Junior and Amateur riders. I have trained numerous champion horses and riders on all levels and in variety of disciplines. I have also worked as a journalist and have more than a decade of experience in land use planning.

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