View Full Version : Ideas for new manure bunkers?

Apr. 2, 2011, 12:17 PM
I hand-built the receptacles I currently use to hold and compost my manure. I used treated lumber and the U-channels used to build stalls, and sunk the posts on each corner about 18" down in Redi-mix concrete. They've taken a few wallops from the loader (learning curve, LOL) and five years' worth of frost heave. They're actually holding up fine, but the ground inside (just crushed concrete with a skin of cement) and in front where the tractor goes is always needing leveling . . . my plan is to replace them next year.

The current two bins are each about 5x5x5 feet, side by side. This is sufficient, but when rebuilding I would probably go a little larger. I'm looking to build something more sturdy, with a solid floor (concrete, asphalt?) and a paved/solid bib in front for the tractor to move and dig in the bins without tearing up the

My husband thinks poured concrete is the way to go, but I don't know how pricey that would be. Do any of you have one made of concrete? Cinder blocks? Any other materials come to mind?

Apr. 2, 2011, 05:14 PM
Hey deltawave, I think we're going through the same issues!

If I could do a concrete floor, I think that would be the way to go. DH doesn't want to do concrete, so I'm looking at some other alternatives. The nice thing about concrete is that it gives the tractor something solid that would prevent it from constantly scraping below ground level when trying to get out the bottom of the compost box.

My compost boxes are made of cinderblock. I have four of them, roughly 12X12 each. When one box is full, I move the composting manure to the next box. By the time the manure reaches the fourth box, it is fully composted. I love the cinderblocks but there was a learning curve with them,too!!
I didn't cement them together but instead drove a metal stake through the alternating openings in the blocks. Since the blocks are staggered when erected, it seems to be enough to prevent fully knocking down the wall if you accidently hit it with the front end loader.(ask me how I know). Behind the walls, I added some fill dirt to provide some stability. So far, this seems to be doing the trick.

For some good designs and info on pads


Apr. 2, 2011, 05:20 PM
I'm hoping this will catch hubby's interest for real because if he gets interested he will engineer the hell out of it. :D He suggested brickfacing it when it's done, which would make it BEAUTIFUL!

Apr. 2, 2011, 05:26 PM
I am in the process of building a new one now. I used lock-blocks (http://www.unitedlockblock.com/lock_block.php ) for the walls and will be pouring a concrete slab in the bottom (extending it out front a bit further than the walls). Luckily I have a brother in construction and was able to get all my lock-blocks for free (just had to pay transport). They were used, but it's just a poo pile after all :)

Apr. 2, 2011, 09:05 PM
Ooooo, lock blocks. Cool! Like grown up Legos. :)

Apr. 4, 2011, 11:52 AM
Deltawave, can I ask how many horses you have with your 5x5 manure bins? And how many bins?

We are getting ready to move to a rental prop with a barn and I need to figure out the manure situation. There are some businesses in the area that will come pick it up, etc. But, I'm not sure how much I'll generate with up to 4 horses (living outside 14-16 hours a day)...and don't want to pay for the service IF I can contain the manure in a reasonable space and compost it instead...

I'm just not sure what a reasonable space is!

Apr. 4, 2011, 12:13 PM
"K - what do you folks do with the composted manure? I mean I understand in general what one could do with it, but what do you do with it?

Am I to understand that the four bins are of sufficient size that once one is full, moving it down the line, by the time it reaches the fourth bin, the manure is composted? So then what is done with the composted manure? Is it basically rich topsoil by then? Does it need to be spread thinly, at this point it will not burn the grass? Do you sell it?

How many horses to how many bins and what size are the bins, please? Thanks

Apr. 4, 2011, 12:34 PM
Another Round-I actually sell the compost. I put an ad on CraigsList and load their truck or trailer with my tractor for $10. The money is more for my time and work than the actual compost. I prefer to do it this way rather than having people come and pick it up on their own. I have a private farm and it gets too crazy with tons of people filling up trash bags of compost.

The compost is rich and most people use it for gardening. It enriches the soil and is especially good for sandy soil, which is prevalent down here. I think most people work it in their soil with a cultivator. I have a few raised vegetable gardens and I just add a thin layer on top each year before planting.

I have between 4-6 horses here. I have 4 compost boxes, each about 12' X 12'. As I fill one box, it gets emptied to the next box and down the line until it reaches the forth box. I would guess(?) it takes about a month to fill each box. I also make sure I "fluff up" the boxes with the front end loader in between to help turn and aerate the manure. This speeds up the composting process.

Cornell, Rutgers and Penn State have great sites on composting. Some even have plans on building compost boxes. There is a picture of my compost boxes on my website (below my signature line) to give you an idea of what mine look like.

I've been doing this for a few years and it's been working well for me. Spring and fall are popular months for compost. I'm starting to keep a record of all my customers so I can space out being able to supply them when the compost is ready. It works out great to have repeat customers-everyone is happy.

If you just have a few horses, you could do a smaller size compost box and let people come and load it themselves for free. You could also contact local gardening clubs or some communities around here actually "rent" plots for people to garden. People are actually very interested in gardening with compost.

Feel free to call or PM if you have any questions.

Apr. 4, 2011, 02:21 PM
DH did mine w/pretreated lumber sides and concrete paver floor, works fine, we own a landscaping business so the pavers were leftovers so really couldn't tell the cost.

Apr. 4, 2011, 02:44 PM
I know folks who use old used dumpsters that you can buy at auctions or sales yards. Remove one end wall and you have a solid walled, solid floored bunker. Add some stone dust packed in front (or asphalt) for heavy tractor traffic. You can then cover the outsides to make them a bit more attractive. Someone I know in Middletown has 3 of them (bought each one for $100) and she had her husband cover the outsides with plywood then painted them with outdoor siding paint and added white cross hatching so they matched her barn. (barn red with white trim)
Someone else I know in Wallingford did similar with her 2, but she added a hoop roof and covered with white tarp and now they look like 2 really cute covered wagons, LOL! Hers are two shipping boxes, pretty big and used and IIRC she paid about $300 each.

Apr. 4, 2011, 08:48 PM
I have (usually) 2 horses and a pony at my place, and I have two of the 5x5 bunkers. My horses live out with access to stalls in bad weather (usually ignored) so I don't use a ton of bedding unless I have one on stall rest or am keeping a broodmare in at night, or if it's winter and they hang out inside the open stalls more than normal. I do pick up the sacrifice paddock daily, though, unless it's covered in snow.

I'd estimate that it takes about six weeks to fill one bunker, and I turn it regularly to help shrink it down and so it composts more quickly. When one is full I start filling the other, and once every couple of months I empty both bins and move the "cooked" stuff to a pile about 1/8 mile away, where it's easy for people to come and haul it away.

I advertise it on Freecycle and Craigslist spring and fall, and usually just manage to get rid of all of it, except for some I use in my gardens and maybe a few spreader loads on the paddocks I'm resting.

I've actually charged money to deliver a pickup load full and had a number of takers, but I just don't want to spend myntime doing that, so I've stopped offering that option. Strictly "you haul" now, although if I'm around I don't mind filling a truck bed or trailer with my loader.

Apr. 5, 2011, 05:25 AM
This is something I'm trying to figure out as well. The farmette is VERY small...and manure collection/processing will be important.
I hope to keep 2 horses...POSSIBLY one additional mini. But that two and a half would be max, max, max. I may try the one gelding 'alone' for awhile too to see if he could handle it.
So. basically, 1-2.5 horses. :)
And, I 'was expecting' to build a small 'bunker' area, in a spot good for 'pick up' as well as for 'depositing'...and I thought? I understood that: with 3 bins, the idea is the 'first' bin you fill should be ready for spreading/using by the time you've filled the other two...so...you spread that one, and then use it for fresh and when THAT one is refilled, you are ready to spread the middle one, and so on and so on.
Am I missing something?

Apr. 5, 2011, 11:29 AM
Here's what I do...

We'll assume I'm starting with 4 empty bins.

Bin 1-fresh manure. Fill to top (probably takes about a month). Try to pick up ("fluff") manure with front end loader every week or so to keep it aerated and to speed the composting process. When bin 1 is full, I move all that manure to bin 2. I then start loading fresh manure into now empty bin 1.

When bin 1 is full again, I empty bin 2 into bin 3 and bin 1 into bin 2. I repeat the process each time bin 1 becomes full. I don't mix any bins until the compost reaches bin 4 because by then it's already finished the composting process.

Some people get really technical and take the internal tempature of the compost pile and keep it covered to regulate the moisture. I don't go that far. If it rains a ridiculous amount in your area, keeping it covered may be a good idea. So far, it seems to rain enough here to keep the pile moist enough to allow composting. If it starts to stink, the pile is probably too wet.

I did make the mistake last summer (which was unusually hot and dry) not to keep the compost piles moist enough and it really slowed the composting process. You will be able to tell because when you turn the pile, it will be dry and not generate any heat. It looks kinda cool in the winter when you turn the piles and it generates tons of steam. That's when you know it's composting.

Hope this helps.

Apr. 5, 2011, 11:34 AM
Victory Haven has 12 x 12 bunkers on a concrete slab with a 12 foot apron, they are made of cinder block. They only use theirs as transfer staging, they pick up from them daily and compost in windrows.

They do a brisk business in compost and rebaled used straw for landscaping needs.

Apr. 5, 2011, 12:01 PM
I have a concrete manure bin.....actually 3 made out of concrete.....I'll try and get a picture later.....we built it on the backside of our hay/trailer barn....and extended the roof so it is actually covered.....they are about 10 x 10.....I would go a little bigger next time and I would try for 5 to 6 bins........as I run out of room......we like to compost it for the year till it is light and fluffy and then in the fall when horses come off pasture we over seed and cover with manure.......with 3 bins I have no storage of finished manure.

We did concrete blocks.....since hubby is not proficient with laying blocks we did a dry stack to about 3 levels then filled it with concrete and then did another 3 rows and filled with concrete.....we also used rebar. The floor is poured concrete as well......the whole set up works well.

I basically do what mkevent does


Apr. 5, 2011, 12:51 PM
We live on a slope, and my bins are downhill from the barn. It is a pretty cool little set-up, actually, that our contractor friend and my SO put together. The bins are cut out of the hill, so set so the tops are level with my barn. You walk out the door of the barn across 15' or so of gravel and dump into them.

We have two bins that are something like 10'x10' and maybe 8' deep. Concrete floor then the walls are treated lumber. Mesh gates on the downslope side, so you open those up when using the tractor to move the stuff.

I have two horses at home now and the bins are not quite enough for them as I pretty much clean up all manure they produce since they don't get to go on the pasture much in the winter. I use pelleted bedding in the stalls, so that breaks down fast. We're going to be putting in another bin and looking at covering things as that will help a lot.

For now, we have been able to use all the compost spreading on our own pastures and also in garden. With it being so wet here, we have been stockpiling the finished compost outside the bins and keeping it covered with tarps for now until we can use it once the land dries out. Hoping that happens before July, which is what it feels like with the constant rain we've been getting!

Apr. 5, 2011, 01:00 PM
I'd love to have more bins, but space is limited near the barn and I don't care to trundle wheelbarrows hundreds of feet to dump them. So my two are rarely empty but the constant turning and moving just makes the composting go faster.

Apr. 5, 2011, 02:06 PM
Contact your local NRCS office. They have blueprints for these structures (bunkers and roofed manure storage structures). Some counties offer up to 75% cost share to build these bins!!!!!

www.nrcs.udsa.gov - scroll down menu on left - click on Locate a Service Center and go from there.

Apr. 5, 2011, 08:02 PM
Thank you for all the information, Deltawave and others! This is a timely topic for me as we are moving to a rental farm in a few months and there have not been horses there in 5+ years. Manure disposal is high on my list of things to figure out!

Apr. 5, 2011, 10:16 PM
www.nrcs.udsa.gov (http://www.nrcs.udsa.gov) - scroll down menu on left - click on Locate a Service Center and go from there.

http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/ might work better.;)

Apr. 6, 2011, 05:59 AM
ok..I AM obviously missing something, then!:lol::lol:

MK: please indulge my dense thick head (!):D
and help me understand:

Why? do you have to transfer one filled bin to the next, and so on and so on? This is what I keep missing....I still? don't get why you can't 'leave' bin number one once its full...to compost, and then fill bin number two...and leave that, and then fill bin number 3, and at that point....empty/spread/sell/use bin number one? and then use that emptied bin for fresh, and so on and so on.

I know there is a simple reason/answer that I just keep missing!

Apr. 6, 2011, 08:53 AM
You certainly can do it that way. Sometimes an arrangement will be set up, though, where "bin number one" is the easiest to get to with the wheelbarrow, has a ramp, etc. and is therefore the best one for daily dumping. Also the act of moving the whole pile from one bin to another really makes sure that all of the "stuff" is turned and aerated. Monthly, as mk does, is a good time frame for a thorough "turning over" to keep the composting process going, and it probably is just the system that works best in that setup.

As mk also indicated, it's poop and not rocket science. :) Keep it reasonably wet, reasonably aerated, and a reasonable mix of poop and bedding, and it's going to work. :yes:

Apr. 6, 2011, 10:20 AM
Exactly what Delta said.

As I understand (from my limited knowledge of composting), there is a difference between making sure that the pile is turned regularly vs. "letting it rot".

By turning regularly, it allows all the manure to reach the heat necessary to allow proper composting. The manure pile needs to be at a certain temp range for this to happen. If manure is just dumped in a big pile, the inside of the pile reaches that temp, but the outer edges of that pile don't, so the manure doesn't compost as evenly or as rapidly.

I think if you just let the pile sit, it will eventually compost but it takes a lot longer.

Apr. 6, 2011, 08:48 PM
Anyone who has to fill out a waste management form for their county/state should call Soil Conservation...you maybe able to get financial assistance....and plans drawn for you.

Tom King
Apr. 6, 2011, 09:11 PM
Call your nearest concrete supplier, and ask how much per cubic yard and what their minimum is. The last 4,000 psi I had a truck deliver was $65 a cubic yard and they have a 3 yard minimum. You don't have to take 3 yards if you don't need that much, but you have to pay for 3.

I'd make the floor 6" thick and slick finish it. You don't have to empty the truck. If they have some left they can water it down and take it back to the plant, so it's best to order enough to have plenty.

Apr. 7, 2011, 08:15 AM
Do you plan to use it yourself or give it away? If the latter, contact local landscaping companies and see if they will haul your pile away for free and take care of the composting themselves. Easier, cheaper and no stream of strangers coming on your property, a concern in these poor economic times sadly enough. I get rid of my winter pile this way, yesterday my local guy was here hauling away my pile in his dump truck. I let him use my tractor to load it because I know and trust him.

In the summer I clean directly into a small manure spreader so I don't have a pile, it cuts down on the flies. I spread every few days. Highly recommend this route if at all possible.

Apr. 7, 2011, 08:43 AM
I keep meaning to call the local landscape supply guys to see if they want it, but never get around to doing so because people start coming for the stuff before they open for the year and my pile is not THAT big, maybe 15 yards, tops. I should call, though--maybe they'd trade me for a load of crushed concrete. :)

I know it's an option, but I prefer not to spread fresh waste on my pastures unless they are idle. I don't have enough acreage (6-7 in grass total) to make this workable during grazing season and spreading in the dead of winter is sort of a waste of time. :) Plus composting is sort of fun and the people who take it are very appreciative.

Apr. 7, 2011, 09:14 AM
That is so true.

It's the only time people are happy about me giving them $hit!!

Apr. 7, 2011, 10:06 AM
I know it's an option, but I prefer not to spread fresh waste on my pastures unless they are idle. I don't have enough acreage (6-7 in grass total) to make this workable during grazing season and spreading in the dead of winter is sort of a waste of time. :) .

I agree, I rotate fields and spread into the ones that are not being used. I also spread on an orchard/field area behind my house that is sort of more like a field than a yard, it gets brushhogged a few times a year but I generally use it to graze the deer. :) I spread there when I am getting close to rotating into the new field.

A spreader is useless in our area in the winter (I'm about 30 miles due south of you I think) -- impossible to drive around and unless you spread immediately the poop just freezes into a clump and strips the gears out of the spreader.

If you have regulars I wouldn't worry, I am just new to the area and there have been a lot of break-ins around us recently. Someone broke in the house three doors down from us last week and our neighborhood WAS "very safe," our neighbors have lived here for decades and not seen any problems like this. Concerning.