Good horsemanship is built on solid basics…so is good business!
I'd like to introduce you to Marie Taulbee, Founder and CEO of Laraedo Software. She's developed horse farm managment software that is web-based and allows you to keep in touch with your clients easily. Your clients are also able to log in online and see what their horse has been up to and what their account balance is. Marie is dedicated to improving horse business operation so that you can maximize your time where it's most needed. She's sharing tips here related to everyday issues that can help to improve your efficiency. Welcome Marie!
An efficient, well-planned horse facility can work within the budget and staffing constraints while remaining on target with basic operational goals. Here are eight areas that yield the highest benefits to keep a farm running effectively and efficiently.
1) Lighting, Electrical and Water
Horses require plenty of natural light especially when kept in stalls for long periods of time. Natural lighting is the best way to accomplish this. There should be plenty of windows and doors to let sun and air in but keep out other weather elements.
To prevent possible damage or injury, recess all faucets, electrical switches, and outlets. It’s ideal to use electrical outlet faceplates with hinged covers to help prevent early destruction due to moisture or weather.
Regularly check the barn water pipes to be sure they are functioning well and don’t have leaks.
A temperature range between 45 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit while keeping the humidity within 60 percent optimum is ideal. Horses require lots of ventilation yet do not adapt well to cold drafts. Providing adequate ventilation also helps reduce dust buildup occurs often in barns. A major cause or respiratory problems in horses is due to dust, odors, and germs caused by stagnant airflow. When the warm air of the barn rises is it extremely important that it has a place to escape and that fresh air is continually pulled into the barn. One way to do this is with stall fans; but an even better way is to equip each stall with a second door that opens to the outside. Dutch doors work well for ventilation as does installation of full mesh or grill doors.
3) Fire Safety and First Aids Kits
Fire safety is extremely important, although it is often overlooked when barns are built. There is no such thing as a fireproof barn. Never store bulk hay in buildings where animals reside. Loft hay storage is not only a serious fire hazard; it also hinders the ability to maximize natural ventilation. Ideally, barns should be equipped with a sprinkler system installed over each stall case of fire but if that is not within budget, currently inspected fire extinguishers should be easily located in several locations within the barn.
First Aid Kits are another item of serious importance to have on hand, as well as have the location well known by staff and boarders. Here are a few suggestions as to what should be included in each kit: Digital thermometer, pen and paper, flashlight, nitrile gloves, wound wash, polo wraps, petroleum jelly, alcohol wipes, peroxide, hand sanitizer, triple antibiotic ointment, cold packs, scissor, tweezers and even in a pinch diapers and duct tape. More detailed information can be viewed on this video provided by TheHorse.com. It’s also a very good idea to carry a cell phone at all times – that way if an emergency arises you’ll be prepared to call for help.
4) Flooring / Drainage
An ideal horse facility offers good drainage in the paddock and the barn. Poor drainage can lead to muddy paddocks, which can become slippery and cause falls, pulled shoes, and strained tendons. Stall drainage is one of the most important requirements within a barn. Clay floors used to be the preferred choice, with underlying gravel beds or drainpipes. It was yielding and warmer than concrete, brick, or tile. Today the cushioned rubber mats that are available mean that concrete floors can be used successfully, with intrinsic drains or channels to let urine and spilled water drain away under the floor and away from the foundation. Rubber bricks are a good choice for wash and veterinary areas. They are very durable, non-slip, flexible, can be sterilized, and come in a wide variety of colors. These areas should also include a well-designed drain system to avoid blockage and overflow.
5) Tack Room Clean Up
A horse barn tack room can quickly go from organized to one big mess if it isn’t set up for easy and fast clean up. This is generally one of the more trafficked areas in the barn. Having a system to keep your tack room tidy can increase time spent with your horse and decrease the time it takes to clean up, and your customers will appreciate it. Here is a link to a recent post about organizing a tack room by LaRaedo.
Keep a bulletin board for notes you may want to share with your customers or staff. Or you may want to keep this information more private by subscribing to a popular farm management software called LaRaedo in order to stay connected with your customers and vice versa. Customers trust you with their beloved horses, so communication if important. Be available frequently to answer questions and address concerns.
6) Feed, Water and Muck
Most barns have a feed room of some sort. Even if the feed room is near the end of the barn, it is a good idea to consider a four-foot wide external access door. This will make feed and supply deliveries much easier and more efficient as the truck can pull up and unload directly into the feed room.
To keep pests and rodents out, all feed should be contain in covered plastic tubs and labeled with the type of feed. It is also helpful to have an up-to-date binder with all the horses and their current feed, supplement and medication, amount of feed and schedule.
Have a feeding and mucking schedule that you maintain yourself or with staff. Feeding twice daily, cleaning and refilling the water buckets, and mucking stalls up to twice daily is average. Horses should have a plaque on their stall with their names. This can also be another place to list any special supplements or feed/hay they are to receive. It is important to personally check on each horse everyday and report anything out of the ordinary back to the customers. Exceeding minimum expectations always stands out in the minds of customers.
7) Good Fencing
Good fencing serves many purposes. Fences maintain boundaries and property lines, and keep people and other animals off the property. They decrease liability by preventing the horse from doing possible damage to someone’s property. Fences also decrease the chance of the horse getting loose and causing damage to others as well as to themselves. Safe fences for horses are sturdy and well made. Barbed wire is not a suitable horse fence. Other factors when choosing fencing are materials that are sturdy, low maintenance, highly visible, attractive, and affordable. It is very important to do a regular fence check across the property to ensure that everything is in good operational condition.
8) Manure Removal
Manure constitutes a problem on most horse farms. A 1,200-pound horse will produce an average of one cubic foot of fresh manure every day. Gathering manure from each mini- pasture after you remove the horses can cut down on parasite problems. There are several different methods for managing manure removal from the property. Creating a compost pile, covering manure piles to control moisture levels and control flies, having it hauled away, giving it away free to neighbors in need of compost, are options, as well as partnering with a fertilizer company for additional revenue.
In summary, to run an efficient horse farm facility, the owner must be diligent and continually aware of the various aspects to ensure the business operates well. What methods have you used to keep your farm running smoothly and efficiently?