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If you’ve got horses, you’ve got waste. If you got horse manure, then you’ve probably got a smell and flies.
At Folsom Ridge Farm, their poop doesn’t stink. Well, it doesn’t after Todd Foster, the farm manager, gets through with it.
Foster, who has worked with horses most of his life has started to recycle the farms horse manure by composting it.
“With the high price of fertilizer and increasing amount of horse muck, I am always open to new tools to manage both problems,” Foster said. “I can’t do anything about the fertilizer price, but I can turn my muck into something better than fertilizer.”
Foster got the idea after attending a composting class in Oldham County sponsored by the Thorobred Resource Conservation &Development Council.
It was there that he learned any animal manure can be composted.
With a 1,000 pound horse producing an average of 50 pounds of manure a day or 9 tons of manure in a year, Foster decided to try it at Folsom Ridge Farm.
This spring, he began by putting the horse manure into rows. He checks the temperature every day and when it reaches 130 to 140 degrees, he turns the pile using a front-end loader. The manure gets turned about five times in 15 days.
“This is not just a pile of manure that is sitting and rotting,” Foster said.
Composting is considered controlled biological decomposition, where materials are sanitized through the generation of heat and frequent turning. Heat and oxygen form the compost.
“I want to show others that it doesn’t take much to do it,” Foster said. “This is something that can be done all year long.”
Ashley Manning, a co-op student from Grant County High School, assists Foster on the farm.
“I tell people I work in poop,” she said, with a laugh.
Large horse operations, such as Keeneland, are looking into this method.
The plus side of composting the horse manure is that there is no odor, there’s a decrease in weeds, the process improves erosion and can prevent pollution.
Composted manure releases about 60 percent of its nutrients in the first season and a decreasing percentage in the next few years. This means that with additions of compost, the reserves of plant nutrients in the soil are being built up to the point that little fertilizer of any kind may be needed.
“You can use this around your flowers,” he said.
With the first year under his belt, Foster intends to keep the project going at Folsom Ridge Farms, a 180-acre Rocky Mountain Horse farm perched on a hill outside of Dry Ridge on Warsaw Road. The farm is owned by Doug and Jill Drenick.
“I feel guilty if I use the manure spreader and throw fresh manure on a field without composting,” Foster said. “I’m amazed at the end product and thought I’d never be one to say that I wish I had more manure to compost.”
It’s Foster’s hope that more people will be interested in starting a composting program at their farms. He’d like to see a class offered in Grant County.
“The NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Services) will host it if enough people are interested,” Foster said.
To get more information about the NRCS or composting call Ed Thompson at 859-586-0372.