Should You Poo Pick Your Field?
When I get asked what I got up to at the weekend, I can get some odd looks from non-equestrian friends and colleagues when I answer 'oh I did some poo picking'. It’s a task that nobody relishes and so every equestrian is bound to wonder whether poo picking is really necessary. So, should you clear your fields of manure regularly or would you be wasting your time?
There are many reasons why poo picking is a crucial aspect of paddock maintenance. This may be far from music to your ears but we do have some good news for you! Regular poo picking enables you to inspect your field for other issues including broken fencing, rabbit holes, lost shoes and ragwort so all of that shovelling could be saving you from serious problems at a later date. You will also give yourself the opportunity to clear any discarded rubbish which may be hazardous to your horse.
A horse will typically pass an incredible 9 tonnes of poo every year. That is certainly a lot of muck to clear! But here’s why picking that poo is a necessary evil!
You can never completely eradicate parasites from your pasture, even if you pick up every ounce of manure. Some worm eggs will be thrown into the vegetation when the poo hits the ground. However, clearing manure will considerably reduce the number of parasites in the field.
Worm eggs thrive in horse manure and when they hatch, the resulting worms crawl into the surrounding vegetation and are then ingested by the horse or horses. A vicious circle develops.
Whilst manure that has broken down to become compost and been spread on your field will fertilise the soil, piles of dung tend to have the opposite effect. The manure takes a considerable time to decompose and a pile of it will starve the grass beneath of air and light. The vegetation is destroyed and bare patches appear. These will restrict your horse’s grazing and are prime areas for ragwort to establish itself. Ragwort is a weed which is poisonous to horses and must be removed from your pasture.
Poo picking may not prove to be as vital in very large fields where there is plenty of grazing available. If clearance in large fields is too onerous, manure can be harrowed instead.
Droppings will inevitably attract flies which represent a serious health hazard to your horse. The bites of many flying insects are painful and spread disease. It is preferable to do everything you can to minimise the presence of flies.
Manure contains phosphorus and nitrogen which can run off into the local watercourses. These nutrients will then fertilise aquatic weeds which deplete oxygen levels in the water and so impact aquatic life including fish stocks. Composted manure does not present such a problem to the environment as the nutrients become more stable during the composting process and so are less likely to leach away.
Piles of poo do nothing to enhance the look of your pasture. A cleaner field will always lift your spirits and your horse will be happier too.
Poo-picking is a bit of a chore but the benefits make all that effort worthwhile!
Do you have any poo picking hints and tips to share?