• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Need advice on composting LOTS of cow manure and hay.

 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I just have two cows but they produce quite a bit of manure. They like to poop and pee in their hay usually and I have large piles of this mixture in various locations. I also have a couple pigs and lots of chicken, that add a little to the piles. I need soe ideas on how to break this stuff down and utilize it. I experiment a bit with making my own lacto-bacillus liquids that I spray in the cow and pig areas to speed things up and sometimes will spray it on the manure piles but this isn't enough. I guess I just need some structure to follow to a definable goal.

 
                    
Posts: 238
Location: AR ~ozark mountain range~zone7a
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hi kevin, seems you already have some quality bulk material to make a really powerful compost. But it does require a great deal of manual labor also to quickly condition those materials into viable compost. The first thing you might think about is see what everyone else is doing which is easy to do right here at this site: http://www.permies.com/forums/f-72/composting

I would suggest a sawdust liner or base at your selected site, the sawdust acts as an organic visable distinction between the compost and the ground (or rocks in my case) below it, the sawdust keeps you from digging up rocks. It helps if your compost site is somewhat shaded (imagine digging dirt in full sun, as compared to digging under the shade of some trees~~~makes a lot of difference to me if I'm the digger! hahaa). The shape of the compost heap is fairly simple, pile it up to at least 3' tall or preferably 4' tall, it is the huge amount piled up that causes the materials 'to work'. Lots of people use wooden barriers around the sides and back, some use cinder blocks, I don't use any barriers, I just leave mine on the ground in a big heap with a thick sawdust base.

Once you have your materials piled up, you will need to 'dig' or 'double dig', or 'turn' the materials from time to time. You will notice immediately while trying to turn hay manure material, that it doesn't dig easily, because of the hay is fairly tough & long stranded. So there is more labor involved in chopping all the material in the heap, or whatever goes into the heap it is better to chop it first, a lawnmower does a great job chopping. I wouldn't hesitate to add chopped leaves from the trees, or other plants. You might not want to put lots of sticks or wood in your compost because it doesn't chop up easily, nor does sticks decompose as quickly as leaves.

If you use a lawnmower to chop your compost heap you will need a respirator mask, as there is a lot of manure in your heap already, and you really don't want to breath that kind of dust. Once you get your heap chopped an piled high, make sure it gets rained on, or add some water. On a new heap I try to make sure the whole thing is soaked all the way to the base if possible, then add some water from time to time if you think necessary. If you have some fresh cut green hay, chop that and put in the heap also. In a few days your compost should begin to heat up in the deepest areas of the heap. Once the thing begins to get hot, don't get too anxious to turn it, let it work undisturbed, except for taking an occasional sample.

After a couple weeks and you know the heap has been hot you might try turning the whole batch to mix the outside with the inside of the heap. Don't saturate with water while the thing is hot, let it work, but if it rains on it that is OK. Remember to keep your heap tall, don't let it get less than 3' tall.

Generally keep a separate compost heap for any meat or fat type materials, those materials don't 'work' the same as plant materials.

james beam;)
 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2351
77
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Not that James' suggestion won't work, but I've got a suggestion that will save you a whole lot of effort. No turning, no chopping, just water it if the weather dries out.

I suggest you give up the lacto-bacillus liquids and start using fungi. Whenever you come across mushrooms, gather them up and put them through the blender and inoculate your "large piles in various locations". If the pile is large, use an immersion blender and a 5 gallon bucket to make enough inoculate to drench the pile.

The standard store-bought mushroom Agaricus campestris, is a field mushroom which has evolved to break down bovine manure. In fact, if your piles of cow manure and hay are well inoculated, they may begin to sprout mushrooms after a heavy rain with no more help from you. You can ask the produce manager at your local market to save the "past expiration" mushrooms for you. Because while they may look a little ugly to cook with, they are still full of viable spores that you can use to inoculate your piles of media.
 
David Hartley
Posts: 258
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When I read the title, I instantly thought of growing mushrooms As mentioned already; you've got the basis for excellent mushroom substrate for many edible types of mushrooms Just don't eat any that bruise bluish-purple (certainly not if you have any immediate responsibilities to tend to)
 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
These are great tips.

James, I believe your suggestion would be the more traditional approach, no? That's fine with me, I would just need to buy one of those heavy-duty pitchforks to turn the thing. The idea of getting a pile to heat up is appealing so I might try to do a couple piles for that end.

John, what you said would be easy for me since I work in the meat dept. of New Seasons (Oregon's version of Whole Foods), and I can get lots of varieties of mushrooms and in large amounts for free. I've never heard of this technique before, is it new? Should a mushroom inoculated pile be in the sun, shade, or partial for best results? Does the season have anything to do with the effectiveness of this method? This sounds a lot like using bokashi. Do you know if blended mushroom juice is more, or less effective in composting than say using IMO?
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
187
 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cow waste some hay each time it's given to them. Eventually they will lay on it, or poop on it. All animals poop and pee in, or near rivers all over the world, don't see how people can control that, or would want to. Besides, here in Oregon there's stuff going in the rivers a hell of a lot worse that animal feces.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2351
77
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Kevin MacBearach wrote:
John, what you said would be easy for me since I work in the meat dept. of New Seasons (Oregon's version of Whole Foods), and I can get lots of varieties of mushrooms and in large amounts for free. I've never heard of this technique before, is it new? Should a mushroom inoculated pile be in the sun, shade, or partial for best results? Does the season have anything to do with the effectiveness of this method? This sounds a lot like using bokashi. Do you know if blended mushroom juice is more, or less effective in composting than say using IMO?


Not really a new idea, mycologists have known about this for quite a while. But they are a small bunch and aren't very good at PR. Well, except for paul stamets, he is quite good at mushroom PR. You can see his video at my mycoremediation post. Bokashi is a combination lactobacillus/yeast fermentation, and while yeast are part of the fungal kingdom, they are single cell organisms and don't break down as many things as the fungi which produce hyphae do.

Mushrooms grow anytime, anywhere, but they need humidity and warm temperatures to really get going. Oregon is plenty humid enough, and while they will slow down in the winter months, you don't get the long freezes (like MN) that shut fungi down for the winter months.

If you inoculate with a variety of different mushrooms, they will sort out which species do best. Stamets is partial to oyster mushrooms, and they are a very nice cooking mushroom, so if you wanted to inoculate with mostly oyster mushroom, you may end up with a pile that will dwarf what you have in the produce department of your store!
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
187
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Kevin MacBearach wrote: All animals poop and pee in, or near rivers all over the world, don't see how people can control that, or would want to. Besides, here in Oregon there's stuff going in the rivers a hell of a lot worse that animal feces.


People can control manure pile runoff with proper rain protection and grading.
The animals are controlled by fencing. --- The reasons to control domestic stock by rivers are many. They cause a huge amount of erosion through trampling, wallowing and over grazing of tender riverside vegetation. Domestic animals generally don't fear predation at rivers, so they will spend all day near the water on hot days and they'll cause vast damage compared to a visiting deer or bear. By domesticating animals, humans cause a concentration of manure that is never seen in nature. Manure runoff and allowing stock direct access, can cause eutrification of waterways, silting, total destruction of the emergent zone in shallow water and elimination of the sort of habitat required by frogs, salamanders, otters and nesting fish. Simply stated, domestic animals will turn a nice stream with huge biodiversity into a filthy ditch if they are not controlled by their owners.

Here is one of the hundreds of possible links to information regarding the negative effects of mixing domestic stock and natural waterways. ---- http://ohioline.osu.edu/ls-fact/0002.html

 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dale, my property isn't next to any rivers, or streams so my animals aren't an issue for the environment. I could see how a large industrial farm would have a negative impact on waterways, but large farms like that are a whole different subject. Even if I had stream access for my two cows, I wouldn't let them spend all their time there because of the rotational schedule I have them on. If anything, they would improve the river banks vegetation with short visits there.

I think it all has to do with keeping the animals moving like they would in a herd. Driving around here I see cows just having access to the same piece of land year round. The impact on those pastures is plain to see. If it rained hard enough it would still cause run-off into a stream possibly.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
187
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It sounds like you're doing it right. I agree on the short rotations not being harmful. Single paddock systems with free river access are the problem.

My dad had 2 cows and a horse that made an awful mess of a farm pond until they were fenced off of it. Herd size does not have to be large to wreck small ponds and streams.
 
                    
Posts: 238
Location: AR ~ozark mountain range~zone7a
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey kevin, sounds like your ready to go...but I'm not sure a heavy duty 'potato fork' or pitch fork is necessary, I rarely ever use my potato fork in the compost heap. I use a regular steel square point long handled shovel, for just about everything I do. My shovel has a great deal of wear on it, and the cutting edge is sharp like a razor, I'm not bragging OK, the thing about a square shovel is it cuts thru dirt, and for me at least it seems more controllable than a round point shovel...especially in the compost heap. A square shovel seems to cut out a mass of dirt, and scoop with very little falling to the wayside, a round point just won't act the same. A square shovel is best for scraping the outside lower edges, scooping and piling the heap up higher. Like I said earlier about the sawdust liner, the square shovel will take everything off the top of the liner, and usually scoot over the top of the rocks. When scraping I rarely put my foot on the shovel, but for thicker areas to turn, I put my foot on it and cut right thru.

This is why you want materials already chopped before you put it in your heap, to make the thing easier to work with, and so all the materials decompose at nearly the same speed. Larger or thicker items in the heap like tomato vines for example, will take longer to decompose than leaves, so I mow almost everything before it goes in the heap. I live on a hill side, and so there is a slight grade where I put my compost heap. I typically mow the debris in the 'chopping area' on the upper side of the grade, and after it is all chopped in the 'chopping area', I rake the debris down hill into the heap. So really my compost heap is a 2 stage process, the accumulation and chopping of debris in the 'chopping area' and then raking it down to the heap. I often line the chopping area with sawdust too, but sometimes I forget to go get more sawdust.

I would agree with John Elliot, I guess,... about the mushroom thing, I always seems to like it when I find a bunch of that mycondrial stuff growing in the heap, but I also get all sorts of mushrooms growing in my garden area too, from the compost pile. So I wonder if John Elliot would expect to have mushrooms growing in the areas where he intends to use his compost? (I haven't been actively using mushrooms in my compost, but I do throw them in my hugelculture piles)(that is where most of my woody debris ends up in the hugel pile, then I add compost and mushrooms and other stuff to the hugelthing.

I would agree with Dale Hodgins about the proper management of animals & the manure thereof, even tho I don't own any animals. Just because everyone else is polluting the waterways, it is usually only because those type people (not just animal raisers) are wasteful of resource, and often careless. So for an initial attempt at managing your animals, I think you have chosen the correct direction to compost the manure resource, hopefully you will use Dale's suggestion as a sound practice to eliminate contaminated runoff. This is where you might try some extra large logs or something as a barrier to prevent runoff & waste of material. The water quality & management practice is very important to me for example, as I have some deep ravines on my place, and I know for sure that these become direct tributaries to our local river during rainy times. If you don't want to see some regulator type guys poking around your place, then out smart them and don't allow contaminated runoff to occur in the first place. I know this for sure, from my place they could test all they want from down stream, and rarely ever find anything that is attributable to my place, or practice.

Hahaha all though I did make a huge water related mistake last year, I got the bright idea to create a bunch of charcoal. So in the already washed out drainage ditch, I piled in a brush pile, and set it afire. Sounds great right?... Well I got the debris burned up and even had some charcoal in there, and before I got the stuff out, it rained a torrent. Charcoal & ash were the resource I was hoping to retain & they float & wash away quite easily...all the way to the river 6 miles away! Oh well everyone has a learning curve.

james beam;)
 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2351
77
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So I wonder if John Elliot would expect to have mushrooms growing in the areas where he intends to use his compost?


Anywhere and everywhere. The only way to beat pathogenic fungi is to make sure they are outnumbered by the beneficial fungi.
 
Sean Banks
Posts: 153
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
have you considered biogas......you could put excess manure in a bio digester and collect methane gas from it. This methane gas can then be used to heat your home, cook food with, and be converted to diesel which can then be used to power a vehicle.
 
a wee bit from the empire
Quality Hand Tools for the Garden, Homestead and Small Farm.
https://permies.com/t/58443/Quality-Hand-Tools-Garden-Homestead
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!