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Winter sacrifice paddock management - People with real SNOW :-)

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  • Winter sacrifice paddock management - People with real SNOW :-)

    I know this has been discussed to death, but many options don't seem very economical with heavy snowfalls like we have in Canada.

    First of all, do you pick your sacrifice paddock in the winter? The freezing, snow, freezing rain and other joys of winter make it highly impractical to pick the paddock. If you do, what's your trick?

    Otherwise, what sort of footing do you use if you let manure accumulate during winter and scrape it out in the spring?

    I don't want to put down some nice and $$$ gravel or sand only to scrape it out in the spring... It doesn't make much sense.

    Looking for brilliant ideas. I don't have a tractor, yet, which means I am having all the tractor work done by a neighbour.
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  • #2
    I don't pick mine in the winter - it's impossible to keep up with it. I leave it from December to March/April and then I pick up the manure a little at a time, as it becomes exposed. If you pick up everything you can before the ground totally thaws, it never gets mixed into your soil.

    I do it by hand and it is a lot of work but it doesn't create a mess and you only remove what you want to remove. Obviously if you have 25 horses, you aren't going to do it this way, but for my 5 or 6 it's doable.


    • #3
      Mine are out 24/7, but there are only two of them, thank goodness. I am very busy during the week, so I don't do much mucking then. If I do, it's just picking a muck bucket full using my headlamp. I dedicate my weekends to cleaning the entire paddock. I'm not sure I would do this if I had more, but seeing the manure grosses me out and it's manageable with just the two.

      "Luckily" we've had a very warm weekend this weekend, so I was able to muck everything and not have to skip over any too-frozen-solid piles. The quotes are because it's made everything a disgusting, dripping mess. Yuck.
      "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"


      • #4
        I keep my paddock area clean year round. I have 24/7 To with a run in.

        Winter here is likely simiar to yours - we had 30" of snow in December and it was 22 below already - today it's barely in double digits.

        We plow out the main area and then pick the poop up, twice a day, sometimes only once. We use a transfer shovel to get it up (it often comes up in one clump) and then pile the poop in the snow pile. Sometimes, yes, the poop is stuck, but rarely, and then a sunny day that hits the teens usually allows for clean up.

        If it snows a lot, that day or two of poop ends up being taken away by the plow.

        Spring is messy - we have already decided that if "this" is the way winters are going to be that we need a better way to handle the manure.

        I hate poop out and around - for the horses and most of all ME to stop on and twist an ankle. There's only so much you can do, of course.
        "Fool! Don't you see now that I could have poisoned you a hundred times had I been able to live without you." Cleopatra VII


        • #5
          2 of us spent 3 hours picking out the paddocks today. We got a foot of snow a week or so ago, very cold weather, and now the last few days a thaw.
          So, today I have been sump pumping the areas where the snow turned to giant puddles, and picked the paddocks...

          and I realized, maybe it isn't the snow and cold as much as the footing that gets to me. I mean mud season in january???!!!!

          I am in NH so we tend to get pretty cold, snowy winters.
          I sometimes 'shovel' the poop in the paddock, but like others tend to leave it till spring, or until a thaw!

          Most of our snow is gone now, but in its place will be very uneven ground since the temps are suppose to drop again. So, the ground will freeze with hoofprints or whatever to make for very challenging conditions.

          What about snow, and then its snow covered till spring and then mud season for a month?
          I am achey from being out in the 'dampness', and I am sure the horses are too.

          Plus, how do you feed hay that doesn't turn into a mucky mess that the horses will not eat?
          On snow, they love it...take a bite of hay, take a bite of snow, repeat.
          Its really gross looking out there.

          Sorry for the rant, but it is truly gross, and I understood the meaning today of how great the footing is in aiken.
          save lives...spay/neuter/geld


          • #6
            I have about 1 acre that is for winter. i shut the horses off from the grass either mid october to late october depending on how they have eaten it down.

            i do not pick poop in the winter. I have a natural gravel sand mix with great drainage as just a few inches down is all sand. so in the spring there is very little muck. once the snow is mostly melted i will take our small tractor out every few days and scrape the thawed stuff into piles.

            the horses usually get back into the pasture around fathers day.

            with hay i feed out roundbales in a roundbale feeder. when i roll out a new bale every 10 days i back drag with the tractor bucket the mess that they have left behind with poop and uneaten hay that goes in a pile so that once decomposed i can spread on the pasture.


            • #7
              My sacrifice paddock is 1/2 acre of nice, sandy soil and although I pick up EVERY LAST TURD, EVERY SINGLE DAY in the spring, summer and fall, I do NOT do so in the winter for several reasons:

              1. We get FEET of snow, not inches
              2. They poop freezes to the ground and I do not care to hack at it
              3. It's too damn dark by the time I get home to see poops on the ground, and I'm not getting up at 6am to do it, either!
              4. There are no flies to bloom if I don't keep up with it.

              I do have a 10' x 36' horse porch right off the barn that I keep bedded almost like a stall, and I do keep that picked up every day. If the weather is really bad that is where they like to stand.

              Whenever we get a break in the weather (like this weekend!) I quick go out and harrow the hell out of it. I don't pick it up, just harrow it all in really well and it looks FANTASTIC when I'm done. I try not to do this (harrow in all that poop) more than a few times a year, and so far (our 5th winter) the consistency of the paddock footing has not deteriorated at all. In other words, it can handle a modest amount of poop-mixing, but we are BLESSED with no clay. If the soil is already mucky in the sacrifice area this might not work.

              In the spring, when the snow melts, there is a MINEFIELD of poop. I try to pick up some of it, but the task is daunting and usually I just go ahead and harrow-harrow-harrow the moment it is dry enough, then begin picking the paddock every day.

              There are a couple of low areas by one gate and about 15 feet out from the horse porch where there is natural runoff. These areas I work on a little--usually I put down a yard or two of pea gravel every summer, to work its way into these heavy traffic/low areas. This has worked out well--this year I actually haven't had to use any gravel, and it is gradually getting better without any major work. Again, depending on your soil type YMMV.

              The only other advice I could give is to keep up with trodden-on hay that accumulates outside (I feed all hay outside in tire feeders) because if you let a mat of old hay accumulate it is NASTY to take out in the spring.
              Click here before you buy.


              • #8
                365 days a year paddock maintenance here and that includes winter, deep snow, frozen turds and all ...

                I accept (grudgingly) that I will not get every single turd through the winter months and I have made peace with that but I do get 99% of them for sure

                Yesterday was one of the worst days. No snow cover, frozen ground with ruts in some area, so the manure balls would fall into some of the ruts and were impossible to scoop up. So - I figure if they freeze INTO the crevices of the ruts, thats actually a GOOD thing

                I maybe miss one day every month or two due to issues beyond my control but this method works for me, I couldnt even fathom having to get the tractor in there once everything thaws and scooping of tons of melting, smelly, slippery manure heaps

                The only other advice I could give is to keep up with trodden-on hay that accumulates outside (I feed all hay outside in tire feeders) because if you let a mat of old hay accumulate it is NASTY to take out in the spring.
                And agreed on this one as well. ALL of the junk hay is scooped up each day as well, so any reminants that might remain are minimal to non existent which again makes for no work come spring - just regular daily paddock maintenance and thats it

                I have 7 here - soon to be 8. Maybe for those with 10-15-20 horses this just isnt possible but I find I am okay myself doing this each day

                True Colours Farm on Facebook


                • #9
                  I also keep up with it 24/7. My guys have access to both their stalls and the paddock year round. Stalls are easy.... use pelleted bedding there so it reduces the size of manure pile. As for the paddock, I go in armed with both a pitchfork and a metal garden rake. The one that is about 12" long and has short tines. I break up the manure with that then scoop. On the brutally cold days I use a pointed metal shovel to break it up.

                  When it snows I usually leave it and get it as it reappears. I do not plow or snow blow the paddock as I found it drastically reduces the ice build up.

                  All this maintenance leads to significantly less drying time for the paddock come spring!
                  Gone gaited....


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by fivehorses View Post
                    and I realized, maybe it isn't the snow and cold as much as the footing that gets to me. I mean mud season in january???!!!!
                    Ugh, I was complaining about this all weekend. I should NOT be mucking paddocks in a short-sleeve T in Maine in January!!

                    Plus, how do you feed hay that doesn't turn into a mucky mess that the horses will not eat?
                    On snow, they love it...take a bite of hay, take a bite of snow, repeat.
                    Mine are dingalings--I feel their hay in big 100gal rubber tanks...and then they pull it all out and eat if off the ground And then they walk/poop/pee on it. Gross.

                    Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                    The only other advice I could give is to keep up with trodden-on hay that accumulates outside (I feed all hay outside in tire feeders) because if you let a mat of old hay accumulate it is NASTY to take out in the spring.
                    I've been working on mine the past few weekends and am kicking myself over and over for not keeping up with this BEFORE it got gross and mucky. That stuff is way easier to muck in the summer. Now it's all twined like a large mat and I need to hack at it to remove it, piece-by-piece. It's absolutely disgusting and all the melting this weekend did NOT help.
                    "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"


                    • #11
                      I leave mine till spring and deal with it then... We have already had several feet of snow and much more to come, and arctic temperatures to boot.

                      I do scrape out the run-in sheds if we get a decent weekend.

                      The leftover hay thing isn't a problem--every scrap gets eaten, either by the horses or by the little herd of deer and the gang of white rabbits that shadow them all winter...

                      My sacrifice paddock is dirt. The majority of the poop is in either the run ins or the area immediately in front, or where they eat their hay on nice days.


                      • #12
                        That recent warm up/melt/rain weather really made a mess of things, didn't it? Blech!

                        I was thrilled when I walked outside this morning and everything is frozen solid again.

                        I also keep up with the manure in the paddock year round. I'm in CT so we get decent snow and cold but not real arctic conditions.

                        I find manure in the snow easier to pick up. Doesn't freeze to the ground, brown shows up well on white snow and a sled with a muck bucket on it is easier to slide around than a wheelbarrow.

                        I only have 2 horses and my sacrifice paddock attached to the barn is...ummm, I had the size changed this past year when I refenced...ummm, 75x150 I think? Not sure about the size now.

                        OP, things will be easier when you get a tractor or something motorized to help out on a regular basis. Right now I don;t use my tractor for daily chores because it's larger than I really need. I'm small, so climbing on and off of it multiple times is tough and when I drive over frozen ruts it sometimes stalls because I bounce off the seat and that activates the emergency shut off. But I am looking at the compct sized smaller tractors. Easy on/off and I really don't need to do major excavation work, logging, compete in tractor pulls, etc with my tractor.
                        You jump in the saddle,
                        Hold onto the bridle!
                        Jump in the line!


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by atr View Post
                          I leave mine till spring and deal with it then...
                          Wow - glad you posted this!
                          I was beginning to feel like Ms LazySlut McSluttington reading about how industrious y'all are at Poop Policing.

                          Currently I have one horse & 1 pony out 24/7 with access to stalls.
                          As I have for the past 5 Winters, I am letting things accumulate until Spring.

                          Being tractorless, I hire a neighbor with FEL to scrape my sacrifice area of the composted poop/shavings/hay (dang horses never wipe their feet!)and dump it over the fenceline for my euphemistically-named Barn Garden.

                          In this awesomely rich bed I have planted zucchini, watermelons & pumpkins with raging success.
                          I choose plantings for their foliage & blossoms and anything edible is a bonus.
                          This year potatoes & sweet corn are going in.
                          *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                          Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                          Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                          Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                          • #14
                            We have real SNOW here.

                            I blow snow in the paddock, with the snow blower lifted up a little in order to make a snow floor. The snow floor helps insulate the ground and keep it from thawing too soon. I don't pick up manure in the paddock. When there is a lot of new snow, I go in with the tractor and blow snow down to the snow floor level; this has given me a new appreciation for what having the $hit hit the fan really means.

                            I feed inside an hourglass shaped feeder in the run-in shed; the shed has stall mats over gravel and is slightly elevated so it stays dry. I do sweep the floor in there occasionally so it doesn't build up a muddy mess on top of the mats. Feeding on this dry surface has cut down a lot on the frozen mud that used to build up around the outdoor feeders.

                            The water trough is elevated a little on a big, thick piece of rigid insulation. Insulation cuts down on thawed ground around the water trough, which cuts down on frozen mud.

                            When the ground starts to thaw in the spring, I will harrow the paddock as much as possible, as this seems to help the ground dry faster and make the frozen surface more even. The paddock dries out faster than places where I didn't blow snow. In a perfect world, the paddock would be dry enough to confine them while the pastures dry out, but alas....


                            • #15
                              Wow. I have never picked poop in my winter paddock. My god, it freezes solid! And then a nice snow comes and covers it up!

                              It seems to break down very quickly in the spring and a few good drags takes care of it.

                              The fallout from round bale feeding is a different story. We have a massive burn pile that we haul bucket loads of rotten hay down to every spring.


                              • #16
                                This is so opportune! I spent 9 hours this weekend picking frozen poo. Northern Alberta, so probably similar to QC. I think we're already up to over 3' of snow, and it's been here since November.

                                I use a pick axe to loosen poo, a very sturdy steel rake to pile it, then I shovel it into a tub trailer behind my 4-wheeler. We have a manure pile back in the bush, it gets covered with waste hay and grass clippings and we borrow a front-end loader once a year to turn it. Lots of earthworms in there, so I think it is composting ok...

                                My 2 horses are on about 2 acres all winter, with a run-in. I clean up poo about once every three weeks. When we had 4 horses, it was every week...and that was pushing it. Going down to 2 was our best move, manure-handling wise. Due to drainage and our time commitments, 2 horses is the limit on this property. I try to keep the horses off the back paddock in the Spring to let it grow...the front paddock/arena is packed dirt with sand added to high traffic/low spots. My horses eat hay out of an oversized wood trough, which keeps the hay on the ground to a minimum...they are also fatties who are only fed twice a day, so they don't drop much of their precious food.

                                I never get ALL the manure. I aim for a smooth footing and no visible lumps in winter. In the Summer I often harrow after picking which really does improve the look of the place.
                                Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior


                                • #17
                                  Misery loves company

                                  I am so glad to know I am not alone with these great issues. We had 46 inches of snow in December. I love reading your strategies. I am inspired.


                                  • #18
                                    My apologies for a minor hijack-

                                    What is a "sacrifice" paddock??

                                    Reading posts it seems to be just a simple exercise area, but I'm hung up on the "sacrifice" part.


                                    • #19
                                      You "sacrifice" the grass in that one particular paddock, where horses spend a good bit of time, in order to spare the grass elsewhere.

                                      If you have just one big pasture, it will get universally trashed when it's muddy, with the risk of overgrazing as well. Pasture rotation is well described, and "best practices" for people with limited acreage and/or horses that don't need grass all the time is to have a "sacrifice area", where you don't really care if there's no grazing, to keep the horses when the pastures need a rest or the horses need to not be eating grass.

                                      Or, well, you could do your ritualistic killings there, burn some offerings, whatever . . .
                                      Click here before you buy.


                                      • #20
                                        I am still mystified and can someone help me understand? In a very cold climate with a lot of snow, why WOULD you pick paddocks in the winter? I have never done this in 25 years and have never had any issue. Come spring we drag and are done with it. I have 7 horses in a paddock area of about 1/8 acre.

                                        Perhaps I am lucky as there is a tilt and the land does drain, but honestly it is so cold we don't see draining from November until April! My horses are not standing in piles of manure, they seem to keep the feeding areas clean and poop in the same general area of the paddock.

                                        Is there are reason you all pick poop when it is freezing? I never get stone bruises, thrush etc,.....