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How do I compost cow manure

Posted by mckenziek 9CA (My Page) on
Tue, Jan 21, 14 at 17:16

I recently acquired a cow. How should I compost the manure? Right now I am just piling it up and keeping a tarp over it to avoid moisture loss. (Weather has been warm and dry). This is just manure. No bedding.

I don't have much bedding at the moment because the cow is spending most of her time outdoors, and the bedding doesn't get soiled.

I could supplement a bit with dry leaves, but I notice that cow manure is around 19:1 C to N, which is a kind of OK ratio for composting.

I guess the other question is should I even compost the manure? I also have a small orchard. So my other option is to just put small piles around the trees. But it seems like if I were to do that, it would just dry out and then it would take a long time to work into the soil. If I compost it, I will lose less of the nutrients, I am thinking.

--McKenzie


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: How do I compost cow manure

Spread it in the orchard in a thin layer the full width of the tree canopy.

Or just let the cow graze in the orchard.


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

19:1 is a little high on the N side, so you should add some high carbon stuff like leaves if you are going to compost it in a pile. Otherwise it can not only smell but lose nitrogen as well. That's probably what's happening right now.

Tree roots go all the way out to the dripline, as lazyg alluded to, so you could spread it out thin. Do keep an eye on what this is doing to the trees over time. Too much N can give you lots of green growth and not enough fruit. Also, over time, you might build up quite a bit of P in the soil. That would likely take some years depending on the soil. If the orchard is thriving then dont' worry about it, I'm just thinking ahead on what to watch out for.


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

I think I will compost it. The weather is very dry right now. Later if we get some rain or even if we have morning dew, I will consider direct application to the orchard. As it stands, I am sure it would just dry out.

So far it doesn't smell. The pile is around 2/3 of a cubic yard, I am guessing. It is only around a month worth of manure. But I will start supplementing with dry leaves. It is moist under the tarp, for sure. I haven't checked the temp yet, but I am sure it will heat up if it hasn't already.

I may build a quick bin. I add manure daily, and if I use a bin, I can kind of layer manure/leaves/manure/leaves. That will probably work pretty well.

Thanks to those who have replied so far. Further replies are most welcome.

--McKenzie


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

Allowing animal manures to sit around, without adequate amounts of organic matter added simply allows the major nutrients, N, P, and K to leach out. You can loose 20 to 50 percent of the N and 5 to 20 percent of the P and K just allowing that manure to sit around and mixing it once in a while could cause even greater loss.
Adding a high carbon source, those leaves will give the bacteria something to chew on and help capture those nutrients.


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

Layering with leaves is a great way to go. You might make the bin long and skinny and easy to access (fencing or chicken wire and a few posts for example). Then fill it starting at one end. When it's full or whenever, open the side, turn it starting at one end to make a long windrow next to it, and then start refilling. The first pile can finish. Or, make a multi-cell bin (triple is usually enough), make a pile in #1, when full turn into #2 and start new in #1, etc. That way you have a continuous supply of ready to use compost.

P and K will not leach out with a tarp over it, but that's splitting hairs a bit, the point was that a balanced pile is better, which I agree with.


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

Thanks kimmsr and toxcrusadr! I think what I will do is build a large bin, layer vertically with whatever carbon source I can scrounge, and when it is full build another one, and so-on until the oldest manure is finished. I don't like turning compost because I am kind of lazy. Probably no danger of me turning it too often. ;-)

--McKenzie


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

Good luck and keep us posted!


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

Do not use any leaves in your compost. Leaves break down fungally. Manures primarily break down via bacteria. Yes carbon is needed but the carbon should come from straw and should come from your animals bedding so that the urine is captured. there will be no loss of anything as long as the bedding is trampled by the animal (excluding air) You will need to wait for about a pick-up load of manure before you dig it out and aerate so that real composting can begin.


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

This composting tutorial linked will provide more, better, information then th4 above post.

Here is a link that might be useful: Composting Tutorial


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

No reason bacteria and fungi can't work together - in fact they do, in the soil.

Leaves may break down fungally if left to themselves for long enough, but they will certainly make compost when mixed with other organic materials in a good C:N ratio. I've used tons of leaves from my own yard to mix with grass clippings and kitchen waste, and the compost would make anyone here quite happy.


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

Hey, Sand_Mueller, I keep my animals outside as much as possible, so I don't always have soiled bedding available. When I do have wet straw, I add it to the manure pile.

Lately it has been raining, so the animals spend more time in the shed, so I have some soiled bedding. But I am hoping to go through all of summer with no soiled bedding. Manure production never lets up. So far I am still just dumping everything in the pile. Haven't built a bin yet. But I will. This won't be a batch compost operation. More of a continuous compost operation.

I am not going to throw clean straw in with the manure just to balance the C/N ratio. I will use something I can get for free. Dry grass, leaves, cardboard. Whatever I can find.

--McKenzie


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

I've been composting for over 40 years and have taken as a guide the methods used by Sir Albert Howard who composted the manure from his work oxen in India in the 1940's. Howard is considered the father of organic agriculture. Since I was/am a professional horticulturist I've usually required large amounts of finished compost or leaf mold. It has never suited me to chip up anything put into a compost pile and that is one reason I've never used leaves in my composting. Another is that leaves have lots of lignins and waxes in them and while, yes there may be some bacteria involved in the breakdown leaves come from a very different ecology than manures, grasses and forbs and their breakdown is primarily fungal. I remain unimpressed with the Florida compost advice and many others of that ilk calling leaves "browns" instead of leaves. Yes, leaves are great, yes you can chip them or mow them if you have the time and the gasoline, just don't smother your composting manure with unchipped leaves which don't like the bacteria anyway. If the animal is never stabled than how is one going to compost the manure? I assume one would let it lie on the pasture where it does plenty of good along with the urine of course.


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

What do you mean that 'leaves don't like bacteria?'

I will put my leaf/grass/garden trimmings/kitchen scraps compost up against any other leaf-based compost in a side by side test of any parameter you like.


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

Right now, the cow has access to a shed and a paddock, free choice. The paddock cannot be called pasture. I keep the shed and paddock free of manure. She doesn't spend much time in the shed when the weather is nice, so she doesn't void her bowels or bladder in there. When she does, I shovel out the wet straw and manure and add it to the pile. Unless it is raining, she has shown a preference for sleeping outside the shed.

The leaves are dried leaves from evergreen oak (coast live oak) and redwood that fell on my driveway. I don't shred them. I do also have some "pasture," such as it is, and I guess I will go ahead and leave the manure in the pasture. But there are some shady places or places near the water tank where she will undoubtedly deposit too much manure, and I will probably remove that from the pasture. I will try running chickens through the pasture, too, to see if they scratch at the manure. (I have heard they do this).

McKenzie


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RE: How do I compost cow manure

Dr. Alex Shigo, was head of research for the U. S. Forest Service, found that trees and shrubs preferred soils that were fungi dominant while flower and vegetable plants preferred a soil that was bacterial dominant. Where tree leaves were the dominant form of vegetative waste Dr. Shigo found the soil to be bacterial dominant while where woody vegetative waste (wood chips) was dominant the soil was fungi dominant.
The predominant source of organic matter going into my soil has been, for over 40 years, tree leaves which the Soil
Food Web appears to love since they digest them almost as quickly as I can put them down. In the fall when I mulch mow the tree leaves into the turf earthworm activity appears to increase greatly and lots of worm castings appear in place of those leaves which seem to disappear in about a week.
Nothing I have read by Sir Albert Howard indicates that he was aware that some soils might be bacterial or fungal dominant, although he did want mycologists to study the mycorrhizal relationship he observed various fungi developed with some plants.


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