Horse Manure compost shed
Horse manure on its own is the ideal blend of carbon and nitrogen necessary to make superb compost.
Your composting objective is to convert that raw manure back into a form so it can be easily re-sorbed and used by your pasture plants for nutrient growth. Composting is very easy and happens on its own when you create a favorable environment for natural microorganisms to attach and break down the material.
Think of composting this way: The actual horse manure and urine generated are high in nitrogen. The microbes that want to eat the wood shavings and straw (carbon) need that nitrogen to sustain their own metabolic activity. These aerobic organisms obviously need air and moisture to do their job.
Composting is simply creating a favorable environment where you are keeping the microorganisms happy so they can break everything down into plant useable material.
Common Manure Management Mistakes:
1. Manure is placed on a wet part of property in an effort to fill in a wetland. This creates bigger problems because improperly composted nutrients then leach into the water table affecting your water quality and creating a potential pollution problem.
2. Manure is deposited in a large pile where it is ignored and just added to until someone comes to haul it away. Compacted manure will become anaerobic (devoid of necessary oxygen)
3. People spread fresh manure on fields to get rid of it. This actually depletes the soil of valuable nitrogen at the surface because as mentioned above, microorganisms need nitrogen to break carbon down. When the nitrogen is used by the organisms to attach to the carbon, it is taken away from plant root growth area.
Think of compost as a healthy, long term, slow release plant food for your pastures.Composting Primers:
1. Always place fresh manure in an area with good drainage to avoid over saturation of soil and allowing regular access, ideally on a slightly graded area (3-5% slope) or solid concrete or asphalt pad.
2. Make piles higher versus low and flat. Attempt to get piles at least 6' high if able.
3. Make windrows that are 12-14' wide if possible. Lay the windrow out on a pad so it runs north/south, allowing sun to hit it throughout the day. This will keep piles warmer during winter months.
4. If you have a tractor with a bucket, dig in and flip the compost every two weeks for the first six weeks then once per month thereafter, until the material looks dark brown and crumbly, like
soil. This helps get oxygen into the pile for the microbes who are breaking things down.
If you do not have a tractor, buy a bunch of perforated 4" sewer drain pipe (cheap). Buy the "T" fittings and lay out a section to be placed on the ground under your proposed compost pile. This will allow the pile to pull necessary air in from underneath. The hot air rising through the pile will pull new air in. It works. It is called "Static Aerobic Pile" composting.
Make the pipe sections 4' long, connecting to a long central pipe, thus allowing the pile to be 8' wide, and as long as you like it.
Make your pile 4-5' tall. Use a good plank as a wheelbarrow ramp.
Apply manure at a rate of 1-2 tons per acre, as able.
Allow to settle in for 2 weeks before putting horses back on, if possible. If done properly, you will have the most incredible pasture growth imaginable. Well-drained soil full of nutrient will result.Always monitor pH for liming and check soil fertility periodically.
Recycle those nutrients. Compost!
Josh Nelson started Beaver River Associates in 1987 and it soon became the largest worm composting operation in New England. Beaver River is the main supplier of worm composting supplies to Washington State University and Josh actively consults with municipalities in the northeast on organic waste recycling.
Maintaining a Healthy Environment for Your Horse