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Advice for cow manure?

 
Kevin MacBearach
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Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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I have two good sized dairy cows so I'm getting lots of manure. I know that cow manure needs to be treated a little different than say horse, which will break down easier. My first cow manure compost pile turned into a soggy mess. Now I'm going to add more dry material and hope for the best.

Does anyone use cow as their primary ingredient in their compost? What's the best way to utilize this stuff?
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1356
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Two words: Composting worms.

Cow pie are their "native" habitat. They will eat up to their weight each and every day, turning it into awesome compost. They cost about $20/lbs and each pound contains about 1000 worms. They double every 3 months, so if you started with 3lbs, 3m=6lbs, 6m=12lbs, 9m=24lbs, 12m=48lbs, 15m=96lbs, 18month would equal almost 200lbs of worms with them going thru at least 100lbs of cow pie a day can your cows keep up.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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Interesting. So you say using red wigglers with cow manure is the way to go? So a cold compost rather than having it heat up? That would be great and a lot less work. Is this something specific to cow manure, using worms rather than a hot compost? What would be the best kind of container for doing this?
 
Sam Boisseau
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Location: PNW, British Columbia
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Vermicompost is a neat idea, but otherwise I've had no issue composting cow manure. I've lived on a farm that uses cow manure as its primary compost ingredient. Great stuff.


Of course you would need to use enough carbon materials, make a big enough pile (aim for 1 cubic meter), keep it moist but not too wet... Anything you would do with a regular compost pile.

Cow manure isn't a problem ingredient.
 
Sam Boisseau
Posts: 155
Location: PNW, British Columbia
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I'll add more stuff here...


Basically on that farm we had a barn with a deep litter of wood chips and other high carbon material. You end up with a mix of carbon and manure and hay. So by the time it leaves the barn there's already a bit of composting action that has happened. But we would also take fresh pies from there.


With that stuff we would make instant 2-3 cubic meter piles. Or progressive 1 cubic meter piles, 1 wheelbarrow a week added to them. Mix in other ingredients if you have some. Cover with black plastic. Wait for about 10 months.

Worked fine.

Or you can just use whatever composting technique you subscribe to. geoff lawton teaches the Berkeley method. Lots of turning but much faster.


I think you just need to add more carbon. And make big enough piles. Maybe put some small branches at the bottom of the pile.


 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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Other than my small wood chipper, which takes forever to make a small amount of chips, my only other source of carbon would be chopped up green twigs and leaves. Wouldn't be as much surface area but it's all I could come up with. Would that work?
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:Other than my small wood chipper, which takes forever to make a small amount of chips, my only other source of carbon would be chopped up green twigs and leaves. Wouldn't be as much surface area but it's all I could come up with. Would that work?


Yes, just takes longer to break down. But look around.

Is there a sawmill or cabinet shop nearby? I can get all the sawdust I want from a nearby sawmill (and small scrap for hugelbeds).

In the fall, gather leaves from anyone. Most that know you garden would be glad to share the leaves. Pile them and keep them dry until you can add the manure and make proper compost mix.

I used to buy bad hay. hay and straw that got rained on so it wasn't good feed is still for compost. I paid the farmer the cost of baling and he was happy to get rid of it breaking even.
 
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