Thirteen Land-Grant Universities Work Across State Lines to Improve Equine Farm Sustainability

March 31, 2016

WASHINGTON – Researchers from 13 land-grant universities examined equine operations and developed educational programs about horse and environmental stewardship. In the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states alone, more than 428,000 horses, ponies, and mules are living on 65,000 farms, and each horse produces about 50 pounds of manure every day. Water runoff from manure, horse feed, and bedding can pollute nearby bodies of water. To devise sustainable, safe strategies for equine operations, these researchers formed the multi-state research project NE-1041 “Environmental Impacts of Equine Operations.”

“Research on equine operations is an important component of environmental stewardship, especially here in the Northeast. Sustainable farm practices can increase safety for farmers, their horses, and neighboring communities and ecosystems. That’s why we’ve been working together to develop alternatives to the most expensive challenges associated with horse farming, like waste removal,” said Mark Rieger, Dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and administrative advisor for NE-1041.

NE-1041 led the development of smarter feed strategies and pasture management. The group also led a successful outreach campaign to raise awareness of new sustainable farming methods. Researchers hosted informational meetings, educational exhibitions, and demonstration fields. The group also leveraged articles, factsheets, and videos to share research findings. Over 1,000 horse owners were able to develop proper manure management and nutrient management plans through Rutgers and Pennsylvania State Universities’ programs, and over 20 farms have had their pastures evaluated by specialists through a program with the University of Minnesota. NE-1041 is involved with at least 12 educational programs at various land-grant universities, including South Dakota State University’s 4-H Horse Committee and the University of Vermont’s Across the Fence television episodes.

The thoughtful management encouraged by this research, teaching and Extension has helped farmers avoid exposing fields and pastures to bacteria, chemicals, and parasites from the horses’ stalls. In turn, improved waste and stall management has helped to improve soil, water, and air quality surrounding horse farms.

NE-1041 was supported in part through funding from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The project has been renewed through 2019 as NE-1441. To learn more about NE-1041 or the ongoing efforts of NE-1441, please click here.

Land-grant universities participating in NE-1041 include:

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