How to Compost Horse Manure
If you own a horse, then manure is a fact of life. A single horse can produce up to 8 tons of manure every year. But what is the best thing to do with the doo-doo?
Composting is certainly a great idea. The composting process will reduce the size of your manure pile by half. The heat generated reduces flies and odours and the resulting compost is good for pastures and gardens. If you don’t need it yourself, the manure will be gratefully accepted by your neighbours.
But it is important to compost manure in the right way. Here’s how to compost your manure without negatively impacting your horse.
Choose the Right Location
Seek out the highest possible site as low-lying compost piles are prone to becoming water-logged. The location should be well away from the margins of your property to avoid problems with your neighbours. The site should also be convenient for you to access from the stables and paddock areas to make transporting the waste more manageable.
Bins and Piles
Your compost needs to be of a sufficient size for heat to be generated. A pile which is too low or spread out will not build up heat and so will not compost effectively. You may well find things easier if you construct bins instead of just accumulating piles. These need to be at least the size of a typical washing machine but larger is better. Aim for 2.5m x 2.5m x 1.5m. This is the size you need to tackle the manure from one horse over a six-month period.
Life is easier if you have at least two bins. This will mean that you can fill the first bin and then allow it to compost whilst you start filling the second. The finished compost can be removed from the first bin when it is ready and this bin can then be refilled and so on. A third bin will enable you to remove finished compost at your leisure.
Cover Your Compost
One of the most important things to do in order to create a successful compost system is to cover each of your compost piles or bins with a tarp. This will prevent your material from becoming soggy in the winter or too dry in warmer weather. A tarp also prevents nutrients from being washed out into the surface water and then polluting watercourses.
It helps if you turn your compost from time to time to ensure that air gets into the centre. This will speed up the composting process and will help you to achieve even composting throughout the pile or bin. Alternatively, insert two lengths of PVC piping into the middle of the pile with their ends protruding like little chimneys.
Damp but not Soggy
Your compost material should be about as damp as a sponge that you have just squeezed out. It should not be overly wet. In the summer months, you may need to hose down the manure in your wheelbarrow before you add it to the pile if you are to maintain the correct level of moisture.
The Finished Compost
It generally takes between three and six months for the material to fully compost. You will know when it is ready as the material will have an even texture which is crumbly like dirt. It is then ready to spread.