13 Universities Set To Improve Equine Sustainability

Lizzy SchultzAg Group, Conservation, environment, Equine, Research, sustainability, University

USDA-NIFA-logo Researchers from 13 land-grant universities have examined equine operations for the development of educational programs to devise sustainable, safe strategies for equine operations. These researchers have formed the Multi-state Research Project NE-1041 “Environmental Impacts of Equine Operations.”

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states alone are home to more than 428,000 horses, ponies, and mules 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.

“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 was supported in part through funding from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and has paved the way in the development of other programs working to advance the equine industry, including programs for smarter feed strategies and pasture management. The group also led a successful outreach campaign to raise awareness of new sustainable farming methods. The project has been renewed through 2019 as NE-1441.

Researchers hosted informational meetings, educational exhibitions, and demonstration fields during the development of this program, along with leveraging 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.

Land-grant universities participating in NE-1041 include Auburn University, the University of Connecticut, Louisiana State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Massachusetts, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, North Carolina State University, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University, South Dakota State University, the University of Vermont, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Learn more about NE-1041 or the ongoing efforts of NE-1441 here