DEP Releases Best Management Practices for Non-Commercial Horse Owners

On April 11, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection released “Small Scale Horse Operations: Best Management Practices for Water Resource Protection in Florida,” a 40-page booklet written to educate horse owners in the sustainable practices necessary to protect Florida’s water resources while keeping horses healthy. The manual is available on the Department’s website at http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/nonpoint/pubs.htm, and approximately 12,000 copies have been distributed to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences county extension offices.

Florida is home to thousands of horses on small-acreage farms and residential “ranchettes,” and the number of small horse farms continues to increase each year. The proper management of horse manure and pastures helps to protect Florida’s water resources, benefit horses’ health and reduce costs to the owner. The Department has produced this educational manual to help equestrians care for their horses with consideration to their impact on the environment.

Best management practices are cost-effective and practical management actions for protecting and improving water quality and conserving water. The manual outlines both structural BMPs, including installing fencing or gutters, and nonstructural, including managing fertilization or grazing practices. The manual specifically describes BMPs for manure storage, manure composting, pasture management, and erosion control. It also provides guidance on other important water resource protection issues such as managing storm water, managing horse washing, using pesticides correctly, disposing of unused pharmaceuticals, and handling animal mortality.

The manual is meant explicitly for non-commercial horse owners such as suburban homeowners and small farms. Commercial agricultural operations are requested to contact the Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services at AgBMPhelp@freshfromflorida.com or (850) 617-1727 for BMPs and other information. Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs, greater than 500 horses), and non-agricultural commercial operations should contact the Department’s Industrial Waste Section at (850) 245-8589.

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