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- February 16, 2014 at 9:12 pm #82494
I am trying to figure out how to manage my horse manure. At the moment I have only two horses, but, with the intention of having multiple teams in the future, and dozens of acres to spread fertility onto, I have been puzzling over the best way to capture, transport and spread this precious resource. I would like to compost it and prevent the nitrogen from volatilizing. And a more concentrated compost means less trips with the manure spreader. At the moment I don’t have a bucket loader, so pig or chicken turned manure piles are appealing to me, though I still can’t quite grasp the whole procedure. How do you handle your horses manure? How do you prevent it from burning up in a pile? Are you using straw, or shavings, or what else for bedding and carbon content. Are you loading the spreader by hand? Are you spreading it daily raw, or composting it, or both? Onto the garden, or grasslands? How many hours daily do the horses stand in the barn or where their manure is collectible. And how many horses are making manure for you?
And lastly, if you thought there was a better way to do it, what would it be.
There is some great info on this type of stuff in Stephen Leslie’s book, but I’d like to hear from any one else who might care to share.
A passage from Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass, by Gary Paulsen
“And they hook the trace chains to the singletrees on the stone boat and then back into the barn to stand while we forked and shoveled the manure in the gutters onto the stone boat and when it is full, rich and steaming, the horses snatched in out of the door and through the mud and spring slush to the fields, dragging the load easily, hardly breathing. We stood one on each side of the stone boat and threw manure out with forks, spreading it as we threw it and then slapping the reins on the horses’ rumps. “Up, Jim! Pick it up, Digger!” Into a full impossible mammoth lumbering gallop, great hooves throwing up clods and mud and manure and slush in our faces, all over our fronts as we careened across the field, the stone boat flying from lump to lump and across the ditch and down the yard to end in a spray of muck by the barn. Spring. “February 17, 2014 at 12:47 pm #82495
The local conservation district (Spokane, WA) has been big lately on helping horse people put in static aerated compost piles.
The company they’ve been using to supply the parts (also a WA company) is O2 Compost.
I personally have no experience with the system, but when I went to the Pacific NW Farm Forums a few years ago, I was hearing good feedback.
Here is a fact sheet covering an O2 Compost system in Rhode Island. Doesn’t look like a complicated system, a squirrel cage blower, some PVC pipe, and a timer and you could be in business.
I was a big Gary Paulsen fan growing up. Still am…February 17, 2014 at 4:58 pm #82496
We collect the manure from 6 Percherons and 2 working steers. The manure is collected from 2 to 4 box stalls daily and every few weeks from the horse shed. The barnyard is scraped a few times a year and added to the manure pile as well. Horses are mostly out in the shed, but 2-4 spend nights in the barn in winter/bad weather. The steers are in a small lot with shed during the winter months, I collect all of the manure from the feeder and shed into 2 piles daily and haul a couple cart loads to the main manure pile when the weather allows. I don’t mind this work in the winter when I can use the activity.
I the summer most of these animals spend a lot of time on pasture or in the horse shed during the heat of the day. We move manure to the big pile with wheelbarrow or Ox cart from the Ox shed. Once in the big pile all handling is done by tractor with loader. We turn the pile a couple of times when we can, but we don’t make actual compost with it.
One thing that we have learned it that our ground is saturated with phosphorus so we are going to be exporting our manure to distant hay fields via tractor and large spreader. I would recommend knowing what the nutrient levels of your fields are so that you know where the manure is needed most, it can do more harm than good in certain circumstances.
One thing that I would love to do differently is to have a covered manure area were we can keep it dry and prevent leaching of the nutrients and hopefully have a better turning process. Maybe with better storage and turning we could sell some of it to local gardeners since we can’t use much of it.
Utilizing raw manure is ok, but organic standards are to spread it raw or improperly composted at least 120 days before harvesting from it. New FDA standards for manure spreading could be even longer, with the exception of vegetables like potatoes which grow in the ground and are low risk because they are always cooked before eating. Personally I wouldn’t want to spread raw manure until just before I am to til it under or before a good rain, this minimizes the N loss.
Attachments:You must be logged in to view attached files.February 17, 2014 at 9:49 pm #82500
We have 5 horses in standing stalls aprox 12 hours a day unless working. The manure is cleaned daily into a covered cement lined shed – 12X30X 5 feet. Holds all the horses make in a year. We bed with shavings/sawdust. We don’t turn it all, but I add everything I can including chickens, once in a while a sheep and lots of weeds and organic matter. It comes out black and nice.
I never spread it fresh. One year I spread a fresh load in the middle of emptying the shed. The field was fairly poor and in a few days one could see the green strips where each composted load went and no green at all where the fresh load went. Since then I always let it sit at least a couple of weeks in the pile so it can heat up some and process.
We used to load spreaders by hand, but 3 weeks is too long to be tied up spreading in the spring, so we arrange to use a tractor with bucket for loading, using the horses to spread. Early on the roof had a slight leak and the contents of the shed were perfect – black and great when we spread it. Then I fixed the leak and now I have to add water…. JayFebruary 18, 2014 at 11:13 am #82502
This manure from our animals is a precious resource as you state, more precious than many of us can imagine. Some ‘styles’ of soil care, even in organic circles, are giving it a poor name as of late. I think it has been misunderstood.
Our soils are living. They are much more than what a chemical analysis taken periodically can tell us. They are dynamic, they are breathing with the seasons and the weather and all that we bring to them with care. The approach I take is rooted in managing the compost very carefully and spreading it in much smaller amounts, less often than is typically suggested. I am not attempting to replace nutrients. Rather, I am adding something to stimulate the soil into a healthy state of being, a vigorous livelihood.
Carefully cared for compost from well cared for animals is ideal for invigorating the soil. The process is simple, but takes careful observation and timing. I have also found the use of the biodynamic compost preparations to be very useful in stabilizing the process and bringing life to the compost, and in turn, the soil. The manure as it leaves the animal is in a state that is a bit too alive, where is it unstable, easily giving itself up in a short amount of time in a poor way. We want to help it organize itself into a stable being, one that is concentrated yet gentle as well as generous and patient in its giving of this wisdom that has been imparted from the animals into the food they have digested, into their manure, to be brought back to the soil.
A lens I find helpful in observing and managing the compost pile are the 4 Aristotelian elements: Earth, Water, Air, Fire/Warmth. We need to keep these well balanced, as they are balanced in any living organism. We need to get to know our manures well before they are put into the piles: What is horse manure like? If not managed, what does it tend to do? What would you need to add to balance this gesture?
If the pile seems too warm (the manure is baking and white), add some moisture/water and/or check to see if the pile it too loose and airy and might need to be packed a little (move it towards the earth pole). If it has rained a lot lately, maybe it would like to be aerated or turned. Covering the pile with something that does let some rain in as well as allowing the pile to breath a little can be helpful in balancing the pile. I use wool packing blankets I got for free, but there are specially designed synthetic compost covers that some folks find work well. A tarp can also work but not as well since it does not breath. When it is removed to allow the pile to breath periodically the pile is entirely exposed, without a skin, to the world. I check the pile at least weekly and make note of its condition and what, if anything, I did to work with the process and move it towards balance. Use your senses! I have even been know to taste it and work it between my teeth to get a good feel, but this is probably not entirely necessary.
I have 2 horses that I winter in a paddock a short distance from our barnyard and keep inside when the weather is cold and wet as well as during the day in the warmer months. I collect the manure from in the barn at least weekly, often twice or three times a week, during the warm months, putting it in wheelbarrows and piling it in windrows in a convenient site near the barn. Once their outdoor winter paddock is through mud season I collect this manure from all winter in the wheelbarrow in a similar manner. Our 5 cows live in a paddock right off the barn with access to the barn during the winter. After winter, I clean this outdoor space as well as the barn space with wheelbarrow and pitchfork and pile the manure along with the horse manure. When cleaning out the yard areas, I do not mind picking up a little bit of soil, as I actually deliberately try to ensure there is 5-10% of soil in the manure piles to help the process along, bringing the manures in contact with the soil and placing sand/silt/and clay in the pile to mix and work with the manures. I bed with hay leftovers, not too heavily. I usually have helpers in cleaning out the barn and animal yards, it is great work, a lot of time to talk. This covers the initial piling.
The manure is piled in triangular windrows about 5-6 feet wide and 4-5 feet tall. The triangular shape gives the pile a certain outer surface area to help it balance the elements. I build a pile that is the above dimensions and 6 or so feet long, layer by layer. Once I have a pile this size (this is only needed during the warmer months, right after winter the pile is large!), usually a couple weeks, I add the biodynamic compost preparations. I cover the pile with the wool packing blankets at all times. They let water filter in slowly when rains, and also let the pile breath a little bit while protecting it.
I turn the pile after about a month, by hand. It is at this time, with my ingredients, that much of the pile has reached a certain stage, but the stuff in the center would like to come out into the air a bit and the stuff on the outside is well enough along. So it gets turned and mixed up. It takes a day with 2 folks to turn a 6 ft wide by 5 foot tall by 20 feet long pile by hand with pitchforks. Good work, good conversation time, great time to get to know your manures and compost and how well you are managing the process.
The balancing of the piles and the turning time is also dependent on the season. The process moves along much quicker during the warmer months and comes close to a standstill during the winter. In the warmer months compost from the winter paddocks piled in the spring (Early May) will be ready by September.
In judging compost, I have found that although it might be black, there is more to the story. Smush it between your fingers, make a ball of it, submerge it in water. How does it hold together? We are looking for Humus.
I do not have a manure spreader. We have a 1 axle trailer, 8 x 12, that we attach to the forecart and load up by hand with manure. This is where all that observation and care that went into making the compost shows itself. We do not pile it too high as the trailer is not so heavy duty. We then drive through the fields and someone rides the trailer, tossing the manure off the sides and the back with a pitchfork here and there. Again, we are not looking to uniformly cover everywhere or add a certain amount of substance, but rather to add a certain quality of manure containing certain life forces to stimulate the soil. We are hoping that due to the quality of the compost we will not have to apply it as often, in the same way that we do not have to apply as much since we have done well in composting it and it is stable enough to work well over time with the soil to maintain it’s health and vigor. No ‘tying up’ nutrients, no ‘leaching’ as it is not in a water soluble state.
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