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10 reasons why you need Dung Beetles on your horse property

Mar 29, 2021
 

The usual management of horse manure in the domestic situation is not sustainable

So the way manure is managed in the domestic situation is not sustainable because (on most horse properties at least) it involves getting rid of the manure as if it is something terrible. Manure should be thought of as ‘black gold’, and dung beetles allow you to utilise that ‘black gold’ to the full, and for free!

 

Dung beetles are amazing and can revolutionise how you manage manure on a horse property

You might not have heard about dung beetles before, don't be surprised; most horse owners haven't either. By the end of this article or video, you should be just as excited about them as we are!

Harnessing the power of dung beetles means taking an ‘integrated approach' to manure and parasite management. This means that instead of relying on machinery or chemicals, you are harnessing the incredible power of nature.

 

Nature, after all, already has the solutions; dung beetles are the solution to the 'problem' of manure

Dung beetles are how nature manages the ‘problem’ of manure in the wild. Dung is not a ‘problem’ but a vital life cycle component.

Grazing animals turn plants into manure, and dung beetles take that manure back into the soil. The nutrients from that manure help to grow more plants for animals to graze and so on. If dung beetles did not exist, the earth's surface would be covered in manure! Grazing animals would not have been able to evolve and survive and thrive without dung beetles. That is how essential dung beetles are!

 

Dung beetles have many benefits on a horse property - here are 10 of them:

 

1. Dung beetles reduce parasite burdens in horses (and other grazing animals); therefore, they also reduce ‘worming’ chemical (anthelmintic) usage

Dung beetles take the manure underground and the parasitic (‘worm’) larvae with it. The larvae have no way to get back to the surface. In addition, any hatched ‘worms’ still on the surface tend to die because the now drying out manure that is left cannot support them. So dung beetles dramatically reduce parasitic worms on a horse property (or indeed anywhere that animals graze).

 

2. Dung beetles reduce flies on a horse property (or a farm)

Flies need intact piles of manure to carry out their life cycle. When that manure is taken underground, they lose their habitat. The fine desiccated manure that dung beetles leave above ground soon dries out and is not ‘fit for purpose’ for flies. In addition, some dung beetle species eat fly larvae reducing the fly population even further.

 

3. Dung beetles significantly improve the soil on land that horses (and other animals) graze by aerating it (due to their tunnelling behaviour)

This, in turn, allows other beneficial invertebrates (such as earthworms) to ‘work’ the soil. Earthworms cannot work in hard compacted soil (common on land where horses are kept). When dung beetles are present, earthworms get a ‘memo’ that the soil is now easier to work, and they arrive and carry out their own form of magic in the soil.

 


 

How can you learn more about horses, land management and the environment?

Start by signing up for the free mini-course about Horses, pasture and

grazing www.equiculture.net/equiculture-free-mini-course

 The Free Equiculture Mini-Course

 


 

4. The tunnelling behaviour of dung beetles on a horse property allows much more water to get into the soil, rather than run off

Due to the soil being less compacted, the pasture plants can now grow much longer roots (which sequesters (deposits) more carbon in the soil). This reduces flooding, and topsoil loss and improves the soil at the same time. Dung beetles result in taller, healthier plants that also sequester more carbon.

 

5. Dung beetles are helping in the fight against climate change everywhere that animals, including horses, graze

The roots of the plants also go deeper because they seek out the nutrients that the dung beetles have taken down deep into the soil. Plants that have more extended root systems grow taller above ground. Pasture plants that are continuously growing tall, then being grazed back, followed by a period of rest so that they grow tall again, are healthier (lower in sugar) and sequester carbon more rapidly. Yes, trees are good at this (sequestering carbon), but pasture that is managed well is even better!

 

6. Dung beetles reduce methane gas production everywhere that animals, including horses, graze

Methane, a hazardous greenhouse gas, is a massive problem regarding climate change, particularly with the manure of cattle but also horses. Because they disturb a dung pat/pile, they aerate it, vastly reducing methane production in the manure. So this is another climate change plus point.

 

7. Dung beetles reduce horse manure pollution in the waterways in three ways

1. The denser, healthier, taller pasture plants become a better physical barrier (to manure) as they filter/trap any nutrients before they enter the waterways.

2. Because manure is taken underground by the dung beetles, there is less manure to wash into the waterways.

3. Less or no fertiliser is needed due to better utilisation of manure as a fertiliser (therefore, less or no fertiliser to wash into the waterways).

 

8. Dung beetles save time and money on a horse property 

When dung beetles are working, there is no need to pick up or harrow manure; in fact, picking up horse manure is doing the dung beetles a disservice. Nothing you do with manure comes even close to what dung beetles, the world's manure management experts, can do with it.

If previously you were spending money on disposing of your ‘black gold’, you no longer have to do this. Your land should grow more feed for the horses (and other animals), and you should also save money on fertilising your land.

 

9. Dung beetles improve the aesthetics of your horse pastures and increase productivity

By taking manure piles below ground, dung beetles reduce and can even eliminate horses' typical ‘dunging behaviour’. This behaviour (which is peculiar to horses) means that they drop manure in specific ‘toilet’ areas within the paddock (called ‘roughs’). They will not graze the roughs and instead graze in what is termed the ‘lawns’. This leads to a paddock having uneven grazing; over time, a large percentage of the land becomes unavailable for grazing (to the horses). So think about that, if you are buying or renting that land, you are paying for land that is not even available for grazing!

Horses use the presence of intact piles of manure to tell them where the toilet areas are. So, when dung beetles are working (especially tunnelers), these toilet areas do not become so established, if at all. In conjunction with rotational grazing and cross (mixed) grazing, if and when possible, this can mean that there is now even grazing across the paddock.  Sustainability in action!

 

10. Dung beetles clear the way for more grass to grow on your horse property

Unless you are picking up manure or harrowing it (which involves dragging/towing an implement to break up the manure), manure can sit on the soil surface for months, and sometimes, depending on weather conditions, for years. These manure pads physically prevent pasture plants from regrowing. Think about cow pats, particularly how they stay there on the surface.

Different countries/regions have different stages regarding the availability of dung beetles. In many cases acquiring dung beetles simply means changing a few management strategies. You may only need to provide the right environment, and they will arrive. You can learn much more about dung beetles in the links below; make sure you check them out.

 


 

Equiculture dung beetle links for horse properties:

Here are various links from different countries/regions around the world where you can find out more about dung beetles; some of them are worth reading even if they are not for your country because they will still give you good general information (particularly the resources for Australia where lots of research has taken place and introducing them has been an enormous success.

If you come across any information that you feel should be included here, please email me with a link at [email protected]

 


 

UK Dung Beetle links for horse owners and general:

 

www.farmwildlife.info/2019/04/15/british-dung-beetles-here-to-help

www.agricology.co.uk/field/blog/dung-beetles-keeping-pasture-healthy-and-livestock-happy

www.dungbeetlemap.wordpress.com

www.thebugfarm.co.uk/research-farm/dung-beetles-direct

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands

www.westgatelabs.co.uk/info-zone/management-tips/how-dung-beetles-could-revolutionise-your-horse-pasture

www.dungbeetlesforfarmers.co.uk

 


 

NZ Dung Beetle links for horse owners and general:

www.dungbeetles.co.nz

www.nzherald.co.nz/the-country/news/comment-dung-beetles-could-save-kiwi-farmers-millions

www.ruraldelivery.net.nz/stories/Dung-Beetles-for-Cleaning-Pasture

 


 

USA Dung Beetle links for horse owners and general:

www.ecofarmingdaily.com/build-soil/soil-life/dung-beetles/establish-dung-beetles-pastures-want

 www.dungbeetles.biz/home.html

www.rinconvitova.com/dungbeetles.htm

www.uplandswatershedgroup.com/post/tiny-grazers-with-big-soil-dreams

 


 

Australian Dung Beetle links for horse owners and general:

www.horsesandpeople.com.au/encouraging-dung-beetles-on-horse-properties

www.equinepermaculture.com/blog/benefits-dung-beetles-horse-properties

wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Dung_Beetle_Project

www.abc.net.au/news/rural/new-dung-beetle-species-imported-to-australia

www.dungbeetleexpert.com.au

www.dungbeetlesolutions.com.au

A great book about dung beetles from Dung Beetle Solutions: www.dungbeetlesolutions.com.au/buy-dung-down-under

 

 
Europe and Africa are home to many dung beetles. Some of the imported dung beetles in Australia are from these regions, so you should have no problem finding out about them. If you do find any good links, please let me know so that I can list them here - [email protected] 
 

 

How can you learn more about horses, land management and the environment?

Start by signing up for the free mini-course about Horses, pasture and

grazing www.equiculture.net/equiculture-free-mini-course

 The Free Equiculture Mini-Course

  

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