First let me say I know that large scale (well, ANYTHING) is usually not what permies represent. But sometimes, larger barns exist (these training programs aren't self supporting on small scale) & I want to do the best for the environment in even large scale ventures.... And who better to turn to for a composting solution, than permies?
My daughter in law (DIL) trains hunter-jumpers. I am remodeling a horse barn & property for her to move her program into. But she'll have 15 (and later, more) large horses (14 to 17 hands), & needs to dispose of manure. We'd like to compost it to restore the pastures with, then later on, maybe sell some to help support the expense of horses.
We can't just spread on the fields, because a waterway & floodplain cut through the property. It has to be contained, and either composted or hauled away. Any ideas on large-scale composting without flies & odors (like many open-pile composting attempts seem to have)?
I'm wondering if IBC water totes could be used to make an easy to turn system... Any other ideas ot help, permie people?
If you are dealing with large livestock, I'm not sure you will ever get completely away from flies, haha, but here are a few thoughts.
First, (and I am a bad example, because mine smelled a bit and had fruit flies), if the compost smells bad, it is not composting properly. It means either the ratio of carbon and nitrogen is off, or maybe the moisture.
Secondly, permaculture is about function stacking, and one way to deal with flies is to have something eat the larvea. I know Joel Salatin does this with cows, he has the chickens follow along behind and eat all the flies before they become adults. Karl Hammer has more what you are looking for a large compost operation and feeds his chickens that way. I'm not sure how that would effect the smell (fresh chickenpoop), but it would provide more nutrients and you would definitely have fewer flies.
EDIT - Forgot to include the link to video about Karl Hammer.
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I was so impressed with Hammer’s setup that I copied it for two seasons. Collecting trash free restaurant waste became problematic so I gave up.
I thought about a Jean Pain type setup where crazy amounts of hot water were produced. Mr Pain had copious amounts of wood chips and leaves. You would need lots of brown materials too. May be a cool project for at least part of your animal droppings.
I compost food waste with chickens.
They dont dig very deep, but they do shred the surface.
I think they will help with the flies.
Muskovie ducks are said to be very good at eating flies.
I have seen a cement truck turned into a huge compost tumbler, but how many of these would it take?
How about a septic tank converted into a biodigester?
Fertilizer and gas production, no flies.
Aerobic decomposition could work in the same kind tank, with the addition of pumps and bubblers.
Compost worms should be able to live in this.
If IBC totes are easy to come by, how about vermicomposting?
Just fill the container, toss in the worms and come back in about a year.
I dont think you even need added carbon, between stall bedding and the undigested fiber in the horse manure itself.
The totes can form part of temporary structures, or permanent ones if you dont mind adding water to wash/pump out the finished product.
I bet you could plant something like corn right in the tote of fresh manure, for additional yield.
Fowl for fly control, worms for high quality fertizer and some kind of digester aerobic or anaerobic for speed.
One more idea.
Dry it out in a solar kiln and make biochar with it.
Great ideas, guys. However, I'm facing two big issues; each horse generates over 50# a day of manure, and there are 14 horses inside. (Some outside, too, but I'll deal with that later.) Second, there's a waterway, so we can't spread manure on fields or leave it piled without runoff containment. Not legally.
The totes idea is something I was hoping could be used to make a compost accelerator, because one tote would be filled each. Week. Not a good longterm solution, either.
I found a company that makes huge composting tanks, like a long cement mixer. But I don't have $60,000 for one of those.
But keep the ideas coming folks; there's got to be a good solution! Thanks!
Your problem here will be your small size. This isn't large. Suggest researching methane digesters. None of the other answers that I am aware of will meet your criteria in a good form as small as you are looking. The big composting outfits prevent flies by basically burying them before they can hatch in the hot manure. But this means turning big windrows of manure and aerating on a regular basis. Guessing you will find the equipment to do this on your small scale too pricey and too complicated.
Totes are a nice idea but remember you will be basically filling a tote a day or every other day. Then if they are going to compost fairly quickly they will need to be aerated on a regular basis. How? Vermiculture would probably be easier here but it would be slow How many totes would you need? Remember most compost worms are not deep diggers so probably each tote would only be 2 feet deep. Screening equipment to separate the worms to move them to the next tote etc too. For fly control the tops of each tote would need to be screened tight enough to prevent flies from leaving. Possibly a built in fly trap in each screen? Odor control pass thru a large organic filtration system like the Paine piles? Moisture control will be another problem in totes for either composting or vermiculture.
Guessing things will look better if you look at either large scale dome type digesters or small scale plug flow digesters.
Country oriented nerd with primary interests in alternate energy in particular solar. Dabble in gardening, trees, cob, soil building and a host of others.
IBC's hold 1000L with 15 horses I'm going to say (if they are all in at least at night) your going to be getting 7-10 full wheelbarrows per day of mixed bedding and mess. (a bit less if you use shavings/paper not straw) plus another 2-3 of pure droppings. as a guess that's a full tank every day, and then more on the days you do a full clean of the stables. there will be very little air in the tank so decomposition would be slow. I think you would need probably around 350 tanks. plus a forklift to move them and somewhere to put them.
An open air muckheap will work perfectly well for the mixed stable bedding and any collected droppings from the fields, thousands of horse stables do this all over the world, most of the ones I've been involved with that have 10-30 horses have a concrete area with walls on either three sides or just on the long sides. Ones with it just on the long sides are better, you fill from one end, by the time you fill the entire thing the muck at the other end has composted, dig it out and start filling from that end. If you want it faster well just have an open heap and turn it from time to time with a tractor.
If you're worried about run off, put a roof over the pile, there will be minimal run off if no rain gets onto it. Depending on your weather you may need to water it.
I agree with Skandi on the open air muck heap(s) being turned a few times and resulting in good finished compost, which could really be a product to sell to local farmers who can use it. I worked on a 20ish goat dairy that did this, they put the compost in their veggie garden with excellent results and also established relationships with locals who would come take it because it was properly finished compost, not just raw manure. They turned the piles with a tractor.
The farm/training operation that I rode horses at as a child had a setup adjacent to the enclosed arena where they had a cement pad ringed with a horseshoe shape of ecology blocks that all of the stall cleanout went into/onto. This was probably a similar sized barn to what you're dealing with (~20 horse stalls, plus people trailering in for lessons and a handful of horses that lived outside full time, and the owner kept her 5-6 personal horses in a barn about 300 yards away). This compost was turned with a tractor at least once a week, and when it started getting full, the pile was transferred further away (but still truck accessible) to an area where it was placed on and then covered with a silage tarp to rot for an additional year or so before it was sold.
You and I are in the same boat! Starting June 1, we began renting our barn to a 15 horse boarding operation, and I.had.no.idea how much manure horses produce (or manure/bedding). At our place, it's about 1-2 washing machine sized amounts per day. At best, OPTIMAL composting is a 60 day cycle (30 days to cook and 30 days to cure), and that's a lot of poo. (Ok, supposedly if you control for everything it's 18 days of cooking but I, also, don't have $60,000 to spend on a closed loop system).
I did quite a bit of research on this -- and honestly, right now I found a berry farm that takes most of it until I can get better. My first attempt didn't work, and trying to experiment at this volume is stressful. Fortunately, I have the land for it. Unfortunately, I don't have FLAT land for it.
(ok, wow. this was my first post and I didn't realize how LONG it was. sorry!)
However, here are some of the nuggets I found relevant. You can send me a note separately if you want some of the sources of info.
a. compost pile placement is important when it comes to water runoff vs. nearby animals, homes, streams/ponds.
b. make no mistake, this is a commercial size operation, and decent sized equipment is needed to manage it
c. manure that doesn't have enough water can't be fixed by adding water all at once, as compost is hydrophilic once it's in a big pile
d. making a big windrow and turning every once in a while does still produce compost action (albeit suboptimal). But when you DO turn the pile, boy does it stink! gack.
e. in my opinion, life is too short to spend turning the amount of poo being produced from 15 horses, even with a tractor. Although, to be honest, turning does provide an opportunity to add more water to a pile that might be too dry. Newer research indicates that the amount of oxygen added during turning is used up almost immediately so this is another reason to avoid turning very much.
f. I bought a bouncy house blower and re-used some pipe and some wood chips to push air through the pile. This gives me the benefits of adding the oxygen (i.e., avoid the smell) without having to turn it. HOWEVER, it looks like I either don't have enough water or enough nitrogen because the pile stalls out after a few days. Experimentation needed. Adding the air through a pipe that is under the pile is the aerated static pile process recommended by one of your other commenters.
g. apparently there's a great way to check to see if compost is cured by planting radish seeds in it. Any outcome other than healthy green seedlings means it's not done (e.g., no seedlings grow, seedlings grow but the leaves are yellow).
a. there are a number of different types of flies on a farm, the "filth fly" I *think* is the same as a house fly(?), and it lays its eggs in the top 1-2" of manure. You have about 7 days before an egg batch hatches. One way to limit this is to cover the currently composting pile with *finished* compost, which doesn't have all the bits the flies think are yummy. I haven't looked specifically to see whether a "ruth stout" deep layer of spoiled hay or straw would also work, but that's my current hypothesis.
b. fly predators work to keep down flies, but not in the currently composting pile, only in the "curing" and post-curing piles, as the optimal cooking temp (130-150) is too hot.
c. Apparently using fully composted manure as bedding is fairly common in the cattle industry, and has some light experimentation in the horse industry. I'm quite interested in this as a means to more fully incorporate a portion of the horse manure into a permaculture practice. Supposedly compost is more absorbent than other bedding materials, although it's hard to tell what's soiled since it's already dark.
I recently started collecting manure from a stable i volunteer at, only 7 horses, but I fill up my 5x8 trailer almost twice a week. I am using it to spread on my garden, but plan on building a composting area to allow it to build up once I have all my plants in the ground and don't want to add more. I was thinking of possibly keeping a pile ongoing and using the Jean Paul method to heat my greenhouse in the winter so I can have it warm enough to start seedlings in the springtime. (I would be using a thermal syphon instead of a pump system because of elevation differences.)
I am interested to find out what you decided to go with Joel.
Has anyone had any experience with using compost heating?
Compost heating using fresh manure in small greenhouses and cold frames is a centuries old --and time honoured -- technique.
In areas with long winters, after subsisting on root vegetables, it was essential for "first greens" when the sun began to have some penetrating power. These were vitamin-and-mineral pills for the early pioneers.
Hi John. I love watching old Jean Pain videos. I could be wrong but I believe he used exclusively wood chips for his piles.
I’ve seen other videos where a solid wall was built at the end of a greenhouse with a hole in it. A door of wire was made across it to keep rodents out. Then a compost pile was built right up next to the wall. When extra heat was needed they mixed the compost pile from inside the greenhouse.
From my understanding, Jean Pain used wood chips because they were: A) abundant, and B) they take a long time to compost. Since I don't have access to an abundance of wood chips, I'd have to compromise, and since I do have horse crap, at regular intervals, I figure I could get away with continuously adding to it to keep the system going.
I would have to come up with some sort of system to allow me to remove the finished product without damaging the plumbing, but it could work.
Maybe plumb the system in an earth work or concrete wall, and keep the compost pushed up against it. Use the wall as a heat sink and allow it to heat and naturally move the water.
I dont know if the OP is watching, but I developed a system which is a compilation of various ideas.
It replicates a commercial operation where windrows about 5 feet high are turned over every few days with a travlling turning unit.
I copied one made from a truck rear axle.
The PTO of the tractor drives the normal stb shaft causing the axle to turn.
A drum with paddles is fitted to where the wheel was bolted on to the axle.
As we drive along the windrow the spinning pipe turns the heap.
If you are using horse manure to make compost, and if you did not grow all the horses' hay yourself, please be careful and do a bean test regularly to make sure the manure is not contaminated with the aminopyralid class of herbicides. They kill broadleaf plants but let the grass family grow, and they stay intact through animals' digestive systems and composting. So search for more info, but basically the test is you put some of the compost in pots and germinate some beans. If they get deformed then the compost is only suitable for use on cereal grains and grass. For several years.
Works at a residential alternative high school in the Himalayas SECMOL.org . "Back home" is Cape Cod, E Coast USA.
We use pelleted bedding (reconstituted with hot water) and EZ pick bedding from Marth.
We also use a shaker table -- selectively pick pee spots, then toss the remainder of bedding up on to table and it shakes the manure and bits of hay down into a muck bucket. Be very very very good about what you toss.
We have cut our bedding costs by 50%, and we've cut our labor by more than that. We usually have one person tossing onto the table and then another person expedites the process by using a small whisk broom to move it around so it goes faster.
Contact several local growers, tree farmers, etc. Offer them your manure pile for FREE. They can turn it once or twice at their facility and sell it. Because it's MOSTLY MANURE, it breaks down very quickly. We have a tree farmer that picks ours up monthly and he makes a tidy profit on it. We just have a pile away from our paddocks and surrounded by fly bags (traps).
When I had my horses at home, I would keep two piles. One started in the spring. I would roll it with my bobcat once a month (I'm anal -- always on the first of the month). I'd start the second pile in the fall and add all my grass clippings, leaves, etc. which helped it to heat during the cold winter months). In the spring I'd offer the SPRING pile up for gardeners. I'd say "free will offering" and make a ton when people came out with their pickups, their Suburus, their buckets and gave me $20 - $50 for fuel for my bobcat, for apples for the horses, or just some money for my time and effort to help them. In the fall my ad would say "remember to put your gardens to bed with a good deep covering of compost" and I'd have that FALL pile gone in days.
Another thought would be to use a Joel Salatin type pig turned compost piles.
You would need two spaces. I remember an article in The Small Farmers Journal years ago that used two box stalls.
As you shovel manure in you also throw in whole corn and once it’s full you turn some pigs into it and they turn it and eat the corn.
I don’t recall how long it took on average.
The couple in the SFJ article used chickens for refining it for seedling starting.
I want to try this one but I have to build a covered area first as we get an average of four to six feet of snow in the winter.
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