Entries in manure management (1)

Wednesday
Feb292012

- Go Green! - Compost Manure

Raw ManureEvery horse lover, especially if you are a barn owner or stable manager, knows the importance of keeping a clean facility. One of the biggest efforts put into keeping a horse property clean is the removal of manure, and it is an expensive and never-ending job.  Did you know that an average 1,000 pound horse produces 50 pounds of manure each day?  Let's say you have a 30 horse barn...that is 1500 pounds, almost one ton, of manure each and every day that has to go somewhere else. Talk about job security for your cleaning crew!
Many barns collect manure into a central location, perhaps a large dumpster or pile, and then work with a removal service to take it off the property, but if this is how you generally manage your barn's manure, have you considered you could potentially make money with it, rather than pay someone else to take it away (and make money with it)?  Depending on the size of your facility and your location, manure removal services can be costly and add up significantly month to month.
If you have some extra space, you could compost some or all of the manure your barn produces, and use that compost in your paddocks, pastures, landscaping, or even as footing for your rings. Composting, by definition, is the controlled breakdown of organic material to produce a humus-rich product that is suitable for growing plants. It requires oxygen (aeration), heat, moisture, and balanced carbon to nitrogen (C:N) in the correct amounts in order to work; composted manure is generally 40-65% less in volue and weight to raw manure, and when done properly, can kill fly eggs and larvae, pathogens, and weed seeds.
To get properly set up for composting will require some initial investment of time and money. There are a few main factors to consider when setting up your composting operation:
  1. Bin Location - ideally your compost bins will be located on a high, level area that is convenient to access but not near other structures that can burn. You do not want the bins to collect or pool water, and they should not be located close to bodies of water where runoff can cause pollution.
  2. Number of Bins - Generally 2 bins are needed for composting, but many facitlies use a 3 or 6 bin system. With three bins one bin is actively added to, one bin is full and composting, and one is ready to be used for other purposes.
  3. Types of Bins - There are many options when choosing a bin type for your compost operation. You can purchase ready-made systems or build your own out of lumber, wire, or concrete. Your compost will need to have oxygen to do its thing; you can make sure it is aerated manually (turning the manure with shovels or a tractor), or mechanically with an automated aeration system.
Once you have your bins setup, you will also need a compost thermometer, a tarp to cover the bins, and pitchforks, shovels, wheelbarrows, and/or a tractor with a front-end loader to turn the compostpile regularly.
It is important that composting be done correctly.  It must be "cooked" at the correct temperature (120-Composted Manure160F) for a specific amount of time to be sure to kill insect eggs, larvae, worms, weed seeds, and pathogens, but if the compost pile gets too hot (172F+) it can start a fire.  It is extremely important to monitor compost temperature and be sure your bins aren't near burnable structures.
Once you are set up and running with your compost operation, you'll be able to save money from manure removal and potentially make money by selling your compost to other people who need nutrient-rich soil for their own projects.  Best of all, you're taking a big step toward being a green horsekeeper! Good job you!
For specific details and more information on how to begin your own compost pile, refer to our article resources.