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Small farms: spreading compost without a tractor

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  • Small farms: spreading compost without a tractor

    Spreading compost without a tractor: do you do it?

    I have just one acre of grass and I know its desperately in need of amendments. I also have PLENTY of compost from one mule, two goats, and a small flock of hens. Sometimes I go throw some finished compost around with a pitchfork but honestly the idea of spreading a ton or more by hand, one wheelbarrow-load at a time, makes me sad. My new strategy is to dump manure and soiled bedding straight on the field before it's composted, raking it flat into a sort of a patchwork pattern, and keeping the animals off that section for a year or more. I have two fields to rotate using this method. I'll put chickens on it this summer to scratch up any bugs.

    Thoughts? Am I asking for parasite trouble?
    My ears hear a symphony of two mules, trains, and rain. The best is always yet to come, that's what they explained to me. —Bob Dylan

    Fenway Bartholomule ♥ Arrietty G. Teaspoon Brays Of Our Lives

  • #2
    I clean stalls, dump and rake just like you are suggesting. However, the horses are in pastures that range from 4 - 7 acres, one or two horses in each. But I worm by fecal, and have never had a fecal exam come back positive. Don't have chickens either. Every once in a while drive the pickup around with a chain-type drag. My pastures look pretty good. I think it is the pee that is harder on the pastures than the poop.
    Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.


    • #3
      Applying fresh bedding and manure directly to fields will not help your fields in the short run; in fact it will rob them of nitrogen while composting the shavings/bedding. It also means that you are spreading weed seeds back onto your paddocks/fields because they never were killed in the composting.

      I see this as two or three problems: 1. A fair amount of compost to spread. 2. Limited paddocks needing nutrition, and 3 no spreading equipment. Couple of things that I have done: Stockpile and compost your manure, then borrow or have a neighbor spread your material...shouldn't take them but a few hours every 6 months. Some larger farms around here will come and haul away your compost and manure for composting. You haul, it's free, otherwise they will charge to haul it away.
      Large area waste management companies will supply you with potash, short paper fiber and other field fertilizers at very affordable prices since these are waste products form other processes. Again you would need spreading equipment for these items. Ask around the local farms.


      • #4
        You're going to have more problems then parasites.

        First of all, what do you want to throw out there?
        Doesn't sound like you have a ton of animals, what you probably want to be doing is deep-littering. This involves setting up a nice deep of straw and just leaving it, it's elegant and simple.

        What is your set up? Are the goats/mule together and chickens in another area? Or all together.

        The chickens are great and scratching up deep litter, aerating it so that it composts better. It's as simple as throwing a few hand-fulls of corn on top of it every day and letting the chickens have at it. This is especially great in the winter when the chickens don't have as much to do (mine refuse to go outside).

        Depending on space/animal density/etc. you're only cleaning out your deep litter once or twice a year. Personally I do it all by hand, but I'm sure you can find a neighbour who'd come over with their skid-steer or something to help you out.

        Once you decide to clean it out, the litter should be fine for spreading straight onto your fields. The chicken litter can be really high in nitrogen so you have to be careful not to burn your pasture.

        It doesn't smell, it's not dirty, and the warmth generated by the composting is nice for the animals.

        The other option is to set up a compost area, it takes 1-2 years for the compost to break down if you're not turning it, especially if there are lots of wood shavings in it. Again, I'm sure you can ask around find someone that will come spread it for you for really cheap.
        "For some people it's not enough to just be a horse's bum, you have to be sea biscuit's bum" -anon.
        Nes' Farm Blog ~ DesigNes.ca
        Need You Now Equine