Search for Excellence in Environmental Quality, Forestry and Natural Resources
Caitlin L. Bainum
Livestock Extension Agent
University of Florida
1 Livestock Extension Agent, University of Florida, Ocala, FL, 34470
2 Livestock Extension Agent, University of Florida, Tavares, FL, 32778
3 State Equine Extension Specialist, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32611
Eutrophication of waterways from nitrogen and phosphorus inputs result in impairments to Florida’s water resources. Mitigating nutrient loading to ground and surface waters through proper implementation of Equine Operation Best Management Practices (BMP) set forth by Florida regulatory and non-regulatory stakeholders can help protect water quality. One way to mitigate nutrient loading is through effective manure management practices, one of which is composting of waste material. Unfortunately, research characterizing the relationship between on-farm equine manure management practices, specifically composting versus stockpiling of stall waste, and water quality is limited. Extension stepped in with an on-farm study done by UF/IFAS state and county faculty which aimed to develop methodologies for in-situ characterization of the nutrient profile of ground and surface water runoff from stockpiled equine waste compared to waste that has been effectively composted. The methods employed in this study have helped facilitate data collection in the field to guide Best Management Practices for both producers and decision makers regarding equine manure BMPs. Additionally, pasture management practices encompass a wide variety of BMPs for horse farms and educating farm owners how to manage soil, grass, and grazing animals is key in reducing runoff of pasture applied nutrients. A lack of education and information regarding equine operation BMPs has been identified as the barrier to adoption by farm owners.To improve the environmental stewardship on horse farms 13 educational programs focused on pasture and manure management awareness and adoption have been offered from 2018-2020 with a total audience of 648 people. Follow-up survey responses indicate a 95% increase awareness of equine BMPs, 62% adoption of pasture management strategies, and 41% adoption of a manure management plan. Eight farms reported enrolling in the state BMP program because of these efforts.