Making Compost With Manure

Overview

Compost, when added to your garden soil or your flowerbed, provides a natural source of fertilizer and soil treatment. Horse, sheep, pig and cow manure are all valuable in the compost pile. During the composting process, the heat within the pile rises, destroying weed seeds and bacteria. When the decomposition is complete, the compost will provide a rich medium that you can apply to your garden. For hobby farmers, composting their livestock's manure may also reduce a fly problem.

Step 1

Allow livestock manure to age in the pasture for six months or longer before using it in the compost pile. Natural drying helps reduce the risk of bacteria in the manure. Avoid using any feces from animals that eat meat, such as cats and dogs.

Step 2

Layer aged manure alternately with dried organic matter, including leaves, grass clippings and discarded vegetable and flower plants. Kitchen vegetable waste is also welcome, but do not add any meat or dairy products.

Step 3

Add more manure and organic matter to the pile over a few months until it reaches the desired size. As the bottom layers decompose, the pile will settle and shrink. You can spray it with a little water occasionally if it appears dry.

Step 4

Turn the compost pile frequently to distribute the dry exterior of the pile with the inner "hot" composted matter. This blending process will encourage the decomposed material to speed the composting process of newly added manure or organic matter and the heat will kill unwanted garden insects and their eggs.

Step 5

Cover a finished manure/compost pile with a thick layer of straw or a plastic tarp to encourage the heat within the pile to rise and speed the decomposition process. Large compost piles might be difficult to turn but with cover, they will decompose within six months to one year. A pile that is turned frequently will compost much faster, in a little as a couple of months.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid using fresh manure in your compost pile. Until it ages, the manure might contain ammonia and high levels of nitrogen that can discourage seed germination when added to the garden.

Things You'll Need

  • Livestock manure
  • Organic matter
  • Water

References

  • USA Gardener--Compost, Manure and Fertilizer
  • Garden Organic

Who Can Help

  • Apply Compost to Your Vegetable Garden
Keywords: livestock manure, compost pile, decomposition process

About this Author

Based in the Midwest, Glyn Sheridan is a freelance writer with 15 years of writing and editing experience. She's the editor of "Kansas Women - Focus on Fitness." Sheridan holds a degree in marketing from Bauder College, as well as a journalism degree from the University of Kansas.