BMPs and Environmental Stewardship on Equine Operation

Barry Frantz (NRCS) highlights conservation practice funding opportunities that support environmental stewardship on horse operations in Pennsylvania. He joins Extension specialist Dr. Ann Swinker and Equine Extension Educator Donna Foulk for today’s program. Ann and Donna serve as co-chairs of Penn State Extension’s Equine Work Group with Tom Walker, County Extension Director, Mifflin County. This webinar was held April 29, 2010.

Speaker: Barry Frantz, Assistant State Conservationist with PA’s NRCS, Dr. Ann Swinker, Extension Horse Specialist, Penn State Dairy and Animal Sciences and Ms. Donna Foulk, Extension Educator, Northampton County Extension on “Equine BMPs and Setting Realistic Pasture Management Goals”.

The equine sector represents a significant target group for improving delivery of environmental conservation training and education:

  • In Pennsylvania, the fastest growing segment of the livestock industry is the equine sector. Recent surveys show the equine population has increased by 50% statewide from 1993 to 2005 (170,000 to 255,000). Regulation of this segment of the agriculture community is not covered under the CAO designations even though many of these small horse facilities are more concentrated than many larger animal operations. Approximately 38,000 households in PA own horses with approximately 190,000 people participating in equine activities. Of the 31,000 operations which house horses, 23,250 of the operations are non-commercial operations and 75 percent are on limited acreages.
  • Proper management of equine operations requires a series of complementing BMPs that would fall under a comprehensive “management system” approach. This management system should result in the adoption of strategies on pasture land to preserve vegetative cover, to balance nutrient production with nutrient utilization, to properly manage excess manure nutrients, and to manage equine operations for minimal release of sediment. Nutrient utilization, forage behavior, stocking rates and scientifically sound BMPs need to work in concert to make equine operations environmentally sound.
  • Some of Pennsylvania’s equine operations are well managed, with minimal nutrient runoff or erosion concerns. These operations maintain low stocking rates that support high quality pastures that effectively recycle nutrients and reduce soil erosion. However, numerous equine operations maintain high stocking densities and require intensive management systems to enhance vegetative cover and address nutrient management, and storm water runoff and soil erosion concerns.