Can a Horse Farm Save our Streams?

Blue stone sacrifice area with green pasture and stream in distance

While Loudoun County is deciding whether riparian buffers make sense for our citizens, others in the Commonwealth have been able to put into practice what is being preached by ordinances designed to utilize Mother Nature to filter runoff before it enters our streams.

One such example can be found in Prince William County.  The Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District together with Oakwood Farm have developed a cooperative model “Chesapeake Bay-Friendly Horse Farm”.

This small, model farm is managing to keep four thoroughbreds happy and healthy while protecting the local creek that borders the farm – all on less than five acres.  Results are what count to Edith Kennedy, owner of Oakwood Farm.  Ms. Kennedy has found that she has saved time and money putting many of the farms best management practices to work on her farm.

When visiting the farm one sees green pastures beyond blue stone sacrifice lots that exist on either side of the barn.  Pasture layouts and size are controlled through the use of flexible interior fencing that is changed to accommodate field rotations and weather conditions.

Movable, flexible fencing within the pasture allows more control over grazing

Details of management include the types of grasses used for weed control and grazing.  The stream is protected by fencing to create a riparian buffer 25 feet off of the stream bank.  The pasture in this area appears robust and healthy with no areas of exposed soil or erosion evident.

A little more exotic is the use of an aerated composter to turn the manure generated by the equine residents into usable compost for gardens and fields.  The hardy vegetable garden located just west of the barn was confirmation of the effectiveness of this soil amendment and fertilizer.

Solar energy runs the composting controls for the three bins used for farm manure.

The efficiency and effectiveness of this operation was impressive.  Techniques employed at Oakwood Farm include the following:

Pasture Management-

  • Controlled Grazing
  • Seeding, Feeding, and Fertilizing
  • Weed Control
  • Low Energy Water Troughs
  • Riparian Buffers

    Low energy waterer drains automatically to avoid freezing problems

    Slow hay feeder

Fencing-

  • Electric and New Materials
  • Movable Fencing/ Varying Layouts

Mud Management-

  • Directed  Run-off and Water Flow
  • Dry and Grass Paddocks
  • Blue Stone Sacrifice Areas

Alternative Feeding-

  • Slow-Feeders for Hay

Manure Management

  • Composting

To learn more about this Chesapeake Bay Friendly Farm and putting Mother Nature to work for you, contact the Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District’s Kate Norris, District Manager, at http://www.pwswcd.org.

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