Fresh cow manure is loaded with nitrogen--in fact, fresh cow manure has so much nitrogen than it can actually damage certain garden plants if applied before it is composted. Fresh cow manure can also contain strains of E. coli bacteria which can be very dangerous to humans. There are two ways to get around these problems. One way is to buy commercially-prepared cow manure that has already been composed, and the other way is to compost the manure yourself.
To compost fresh cow manure yourself, simply place a pile of manure on a cement pad, keep it moist and turn the pile once each day, turning the outside layer of the pile into the center of the pile. After two weeks your manure will be ready to safely spread on your garden.
Apply your composted cow manure in fall so your beds will be prepared for the following spring. Start by raking and removing all weeds and old plant growth that will not be regrowing the following spring.
Use your shovel to apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of composted cow manure over the surface of your garden. Wear gloves whenever handling cow manure.
Mix the composed cow manure into the top 4 to 6 inches of your garden soil with a shovel or a hoe. Break up the surface of the ground and mix the manure and the soil together well. Do not bother watering.
Plant your seeds and plants as usual the following spring. Do not till the soil before planting as this will disturb the good microbes that the manure has been breeding since the previous fall.
Add approximately 1/2 inch of fresh composted manure on top of the ground after seeds have sprouted. Water normally.