Sandi Holt ripped open a bag of wood shavings and scattered the bedding material on the floor of her horse’s stall.
“We’ll go through four bags a day per stall,” said Holt, a 62-year-old trainer from Winter Haven Ranch in Aubrey. “We like to keep things really cushioned.”
About 30 feet away in the Burnett Building – basically an enormous barn where horses are kept until it’s time to perform in the adjacent Will Rogers Coliseum or the nearby John Justin Arena – Coleman Roberts was mucking out a stall after a horse was removed. The 23-year-old temporary employee’s job for the duration of the Stock Show is scooping up old bedding and everything the horses leave behind.
But most of the stuff Roberts shovels isn’t bound for a landfill. It goes into a special container marked “Compost: Manure & Bedding Only.”
The Stock Show goes through about 87,500 cubic feet of wood-shavings bedding during its 23-day run, said horse show manager Bruce McCarty.
Nobody could estimate how much manure gets added to that bedding, but Kim Flood, district sales manager for Progressive Waste Solutions, said that in the last three years partnering with the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, the company has averaged more than 2,100 tons of waste per show.
“We have diverted more than 80 percent of that from local landfills,” Flood said.
By Friday, Flood predicted that this year’s show would surpass past years’ production.
Everything produced by horses, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, rabbits and chickens is taken together to a local composting facility and “added as a key ingredient to a highly engineered organic top soil product which is used for many applications,” Flood said.
Considered separately, rabbit and chicken manure are about the best to use on plants, because of high concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, said Karen Hall, applied ecologist with the Botanic Research Institute of Texas.
“All manures should be composted first before use, otherwise you risk burning and pathogen exposure,” Hall said. “In general, composted horse and cattle manure have a good balance of nutrients.”
More weed seeds tend to survive horse and cattle digestive systems, Hall said, but proper composting should eliminate that threat.
“These manures, along with llama, are really good for adding organic matter to soils, helping them retain water better and improving soil texture,” Hall said.
Plant professionals tend to avoid pig manure, because it has the potential for carrying human pathogens, Hall said.
The manure from sheep and goats is drier, easier to use and has less odor than some others, and it has lots of nitrogen and potassium, Hall said.
Everything mixed together and composted would produce a pretty good fertilizer, Hall said.
“However, I might be a little cautious about using manure that is mixed from unknown sources, given the somewhat recent spate of composts retaining herbicide effects even after digestion through the cow,” she said. – Terry Evans
Before: Sandi Holt, 62, with Winter Haven Ranch in Aubrey, spreads bedding for one of the ranch's horses at the Fort Worth Stock Show. Photo by Terry Evans
After: Coleman Roberts, 23, of Fort Worth mucks out a stall in the Fort Worth Stock Show's Burnett Building. Photo by Terry Evans