Properly managed and stored, manure can be a great asset to your property by recycling nutrients back to the soil at little or no cost to you. Unfortunately, people often get a little overwhelmed by the continuous production of waste. Large animals such as horses produce about 50 pounds per day, which equals 9 tons or 11 cubic yards (cy) per year. That’s a lot of manure to manage! Even the manure of small animals adds up over one year: 3 cubic yards per pig, 1 cubic yard per sheep, and 1/2 cubic yard per chicken.
Left unchecked, it can become a pollutant to your water and put your animals at risk. Bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorous produced by manure can create problems for people and fish by contaminating streams, irrigation water and wells. Fresh manure often contains parasites that threaten livestock health, and pathogens that harm humans. Even applying fresh manure to pastures and gardens can put humans and animals at risk. Properly managing manure also keeps you out of legal trouble.
Store manure in a way that minimizes loss of nutrients and pathogens to water. Store manure under cover and on an impervious surface.
Use bins to allow composting manure to mature while starting newer piles. Moving piles from one bin to the next can also add oxygen.
Design for at least 6 months of storage to avoid spreading manure or compost in winter on dormant and/or saturated pastures. Also, you will be collecting manure from the livestock confined in corrals to give pastures their winter rest. Six months of manure from one cow is a pile 5 feet high and about 40 square feet; from one horse you get a pile 5 feet high and 15 square feet. (These values account for the expected loss of half the original volume during storage). Adding bedding will increase these storage estimates.
Follow the links below to learn more about how to manage manure on your property:
- Agricultural composting resources from OSU Small Farms
- A Guide to Composting Horse Manure (WSU Cooperative Extension, Whatcom County)
- Composting Livestock Manure (on a larger scale)
More Resources to Help
Oregon Dept. of Agriculture: (503)-986-4700
Oregon State University Extension Service – Small Farms Program: (541)-766-6750