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Composting manure - How often do you turn your pile?

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  • Composting manure - How often do you turn your pile?

    We're new at the small farm thing, and want to compost our manure. I have LOTS of friends who want it when its done, and I want to make the best, fastest compost possible.

    So, with that in mind...how often should I be turning my manure pile to ensure good (and reasonably quick) compost?
    Here Be Dragons: My blog about venturing beyond the lower levels as a dressage amateur.

  • #2
    This is required reading for the newbie composter.


    I turn my piles probably once a week during the "high time" of composting: warm summer, decent rainfall. When it's cooler and/or drier, it doesn't need turning nearly as often, and in the winter it doesn't get turned at all.

    If you want quick, go with pelleted bedding or very, very fine shavings/sawdust. Cuts the composting time probably by 1/3 or more over regular shavings.
    Click here before you buy.


    • #3
      I don't turn at all (lazy, just want to get rid of it). Takes about a year to be "dirt" instead of "crap and shavings." Then the neighbors come haul it away.


      • #4
        Agree with Delta...I turn mine once per week from April to October or so...warm weather. And when it's rainy...but before it turns to soup and tries to swallow the tractor.
        If we get a hot dry spell I turn the hose on it and turn it.
        In winter..I ignore it. It freezes solid anyways...and cooks on the inside.
        I do use pelleted bedding...my pile goes from poop balls (you throw out an extremely small amount of bedding with pelleted...it's hard to find bedding in my manure pile) to dark rich dirt in about 2-3 months with turning and watering in warm weather. By the time it cools down and I leave it alone for the winter....by the first turning of spring it's all dirt except for the semi-frozen stuff on top. But that gets turned under and cooks down in a couple of weeks under the hot stuff.

        Good part about turning it and using pellets...nurseries can use it on flowers or crops...it doesn't have shavings which ruin those plants. So more folks want it. And even if a bunch of folks don't take any...it breaks down so well that I've not emptied the manure pile in almost 4 years now and it's stayed the same exact size from breaking down. This year I'll either give it away to a farmer or knock it down and spread it on my grass paddock or even knock it into the woods and let it choke off and kill some trees I don't want.
        FWIW...my manure pile is in the woods...shade makes it break down better/faster.
        You jump in the saddle,
        Hold onto the bridle!
        Jump in the line!


        • #5
          I keep saying I'm going to call the local groundcover place every spring and offer them my pile o' poop in exchange for, say, some nice gravel or crushed concrete.
          Click here before you buy.


          • #6
            Oohhhh, now that would be a sweet deal! I'd love to be able to swap composted manure for rock or sand. Any kind of either, LOL! Sand for footing or for the rolling pit. Rock for the driveway, or bluestone or rip rap or crush or....ahhhh, the possibilities are endless!

            *sigh* Horse folks are always pining for the stone!
            You jump in the saddle,
            Hold onto the bridle!
            Jump in the line!


            • #7
              Originally posted by MistyBlue View Post
              Good part about turning it and using pellets...nurseries can use it on flowers or crops...it doesn't have shavings which ruin those plants. So more folks want it.
              Does the wet dust from the pee spot not matter?


              • #8
                dmal- it breaks down very quickly. Big flake shavings take 2-3 years to decompose vs. 6 months for pelleted bedding sawdust. Essentially it is powdered wood. I use pelleted and I have glorious compost in 6 months. I turn my pile in 3 stages--finished on one end, middle stage in the middle, fresh on the other end. Each one gets spun every 2-3 weeks from October to April--no freezing poo piles here. I stay off it during really rainy times, though, as I'm tired of using my truck to pull my wee tractor out of the poo hill.
                Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


                • #9
                  Yup, like Calvin said...wet pellets break down *fast* and disappear.
                  And when I'm done picking a stall out the wheelbarrow is probably about 90-95% plain poop balls and the rest is wet clumped bedding. Kinda like clumping cat litter, it comes out in one piece. And the dry bedding can be shaken off of the wet spot and the manure so no bedding other than wet bedding is ever thrown out. If you check a wheelbarrow or muck bucket after cleaning a pelleted bedding stall...it looks like the contents were picked up off of a clean floor instead of out of bedding. I only go through one 30# bag of bedding per stall per every 7-10 days...and my stalls are kept deep as heck and dry, never damp. It's much more economical to use than shavings IMO. If I wanted my stalls the same depth and as clean and dry as I keep them now so there's zero smell...I'd be going through 4 bags of shavings a week most likely. And throwing a buttload out...shavings don't absorb urine and they don't sift through a fork either. So urine runs everywhere through the bedding wetting a lot more of it and causing smell. I like the look of shavings...hate the reality of them. Plus with a small place I can;t have a manure pile that grows like Jack's Bean Stalk.

                  But also like Calvin said...stay off of it when it's really wet. And get a tow chain...you'll be dragging the tractor out of it whenever your SO or you forget to check it for wetness or try to go into the pile forwards with the small tires up front instead of backwards with the big fat tires that don't bury themselves.

                  I literally couldn't begin to count how many times I've had to haul my husband and my tractor out of my manure pile...and then power wash the shite off the tractor's undercarriage. And then holler at the husband, "I TOLD you it wasn't dry enough yet!"
                  You jump in the saddle,
                  Hold onto the bridle!
                  Jump in the line!


                  • #10

                    Over the winter, I was picking the manure out of my fields and would make like 5 big piles through the field to scoop the manure into and then come by with the big utility trailer and load it and haul it away. Then we got rain, and more rain, and I couldnt get the trailer out there without making ruts. Anyways, needless to say, these piles of manure didnt get touch for like 2 months. Then of course, I got busy, and it got dry for a while, but I left it out there. I went out a few weeks ago, and when I pulled them apart, they were that "dirt" you guys are talking about with a compost pile.

                    Is it possible that it composted that quickly? Or was it more of the manure breaking down and being washed away into little particles?

                    On a site note, hubby gets off work Thursday for a week and this weeks honey-dew list is: COMPOST BIN!

                    Member of the ILMD[FN]HP Clique, The Florida Clique, OMGiH I loff my mares, and the Bareback Riders clique!


                    • #11
                      My pile gets turned during the winter every 1-2 weeks. It stays hot down about a foot even in single digit temperatures, so I turn it to hurry things up and keep it hot - easier to turn when the surrounding ground is frozen. I use regular shavings with a coffee can of pellets underneath on the pee spot.

                      Edited to say I just read the composting link (Thanks deltawave!) and agree with all but the statement that stalled horses do not need much bedding. This is a sore point with me, as it results in a confined horse having to lie down on a flat stall floor. Given a choice, you will never see a horse laying on a flat surface - they always will lie where their legs can be downhill or in a hole so they are more comfortable and can get up easier. I bed with only 4-5" or so, but always keep one wall of my stalls banked with new shavings as a 'bed', and my horses always lie on/against their elevated bed spot. When cleaning, I pull replacement shavings from this spot until it is almost level, then replenish with a big cart of new shavings banked high. As a barn designer, I try to give horses an environment they would choose for themselves, if they could.
                      Last edited by Plumcreek; Mar. 16, 2010, 01:44 AM.
                      Comprehensive Equestrian Site Planning and Facility Design


                      • #12
                        We turn ours every couple of weeks. And we also use a pelleted cedar free bedding product that's designed to compost. (Cedar products do NOT make good garden compost) Due to the climate here, I can keep the pile "hot" year-round by turning it frequently. Our bin is divided into two piles of about 30 yards each of fresh and ready (or closer to ready) to go.

                        I don't have any trouble getting rid of the stuff to local gardeners-I do a "free giveaway" once a month on Craigslist, and the "ready" pile is always gone in a couple of hours.

                        We built a concrete pit a couple of years ago, and I love it. No more mud bog! And no worries from the neighbors about ground water issues. And you can aerate with PVC pipe and a compressor if you use a less compost-friendly bedding like shavings.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by dmalbone View Post
                          Does the wet dust from the pee spot not matter?
                          I asked a gardening pro from Purdue the same question. He told me the nitrogen from the urine is actually beneficial.
                          From the results I get using my compost in the garden for flowers & veggies it appears he was correct.

                          In answer to the OP - Never.
                          I just add fresh to the top of the pile all Winter, then turn over in Spring by digging through the top layer to the good stuff underneath.
                          Top then becomes the bottom layer for next year.
                          *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                          Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                          Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                          Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015