Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Shitty question

This is a horse feces, which has survived at our pasture about a year in this form.

Just nearby we could find another feces, but in no circumstances – older than just two weeks (as our horses just from two weeks time have an access to this part of the pasture).

Keeping horses for years already, I was always seeing this strange difference: some excrement survives long in an apparently unchanged form despite heat and cold, rain and snow – whereas other rots within few hours and disappears almost immediately.

Just for the illustration: this was made by our Margire yesterday early morning while they were leaving the winter paddock after their breakfast.

Few others examples of fresh or nearly fresh but already rotten and disappearing feces see:

So – what is interesting in so trivial fact? Well – nothing to laugh at, Ladies and Gentlemen!

First: it definitely could indicate a horse health, diet, digestive ability, possible parasite invasion (within a horse body or at the pasture soil…) and thus – future performance. However, studying horse physiology I never found an authoritative answer of  “a shitty question”: which kind of excrement is “normal” and which indicates some specific problems? What is better for a horse to defecate: with solid, resistive to external influence, rock hard, year round surviving feces – or with milder, quickly rotting and disappearing excrement..?

As you may see from this (very fresh) example, the difference is not in an “initial form” of an excrement (cause leaving the horse body, our “fast-rotting” excrement looks exactly the same way – the only difference is, that they lost its form very fast now…):

Anybody knows the answer? Is there any literature about this question?

And second: as a gardener (a very fresh one…) – I definitely prefer “a fast-rotting feces” to these “long-surviving” ones! What to do, to have mostly these first ones – if only it’s OK from the horse health point of view?


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  2. Does initial air humidity, sun exposure and temperature influence formation of different type of feces?

    If they dries up quickly, then microbial activity is significantly reduce, therefore they take their time to rot, because a crust is created (just as one is created on clay soil with low organic matter content).

    Obviously it doesn't explain why sometimes they are more and sometimes less runny.

    Other factor might be the time after anti-parasite treatment of your horses. I heard that when some cattle ranchers turn organic (they are required to stop using some harsh anti-parasite treatment) then the cows' feces are starting to rot much faster, because dung beetles (and different other feces eating bugs and animals) are not being killed/harmed/repelled by the feces, so their population increase.


    1. Certainly, this may help to explain.

      Last year autumn was very dry. However: the difference in weather isn't very significant so far - whereas the overall outcome is totally different...

  3. Do you remember my article about carbon to nitrogen ratio? In general the more nitrogen (protein) are in your horses diet the more nitrogen will be in their feces, so (ceteris paribus) the faster they will rot.

    1. This year, for the first time, I didn't use nitrogen fertilizer at our pastures in the spring... What from could they have more nitrogen in the diet than a year ago, when I have used such fertilizer..?

    2. My thought is: because you had drought, so your grass productivity was very low. If the yields were normal, that amount of available nitrogen would be a limiting factor, but in case of scarcity of water, that was enough. Also in normal conditions if you use P or K fertilizers (and i think you mention it on your polish blog?) without N it tends to encourage the growth of legumes (as they can overcome N scarcity and use other elements efficiently).