Who gives a muck?RSS feed

Posted: Thursday 18 December, 2014

by Rosemary Champion at 7:46pm in Composting 3 comments Comments closed

There’s a saying “Where there’s muck, there’s money” – not so sure about that but muck management is certainly taking up a good bit of time at the moment.

Summer is relatively simple – we have about a wheelbarrow full of horse droppings every day; in winter this is supplemented by the daily mucking out from the bull and the weekly mucking out of the feeding area of the cows. Mid March will see the mucking out of the laying area for the cows then the stuff from the lambing shed in late April / early May.

The cleanings from the hen houses go in a compost bay, along with grass clippings. It’s a shame that when we have the most grass clippings ie in summer, we have the least cleanings from the henhouses and vice versa. In summer, I can generally get away with cleaning once a month but in winter, when the hens are in for 15 hours a day and it’s wet underfoot, I need to clean them out every ten days or so. In fact, I’m off to do that after I’ve written this.

For the muck, we have four bays built with pallets. We fill each in turn and when it’s full, we cover it with black plastic and let it rot down. The resulting manure is fabulous – black, rich and full of worms. We don’t have the means to spread it on the fields, so it has to be used on the garden. But our soil is very light and sandy, so can take any amount of top dressing.

At the moment, we have one bay covered and almost ready and two bays open and almost full. The fourth bay is ready and almost empty – two blokes from the local allotments come and get a few trailer loads on a regular basis, in return for wine J Our job for the weekend is to empty the fourth bay and level and cover the two bays that are full.

I was leveling one yesterday and it was steaming in the cold, and was moving with worms. I had an audience of robins and blackbirds while I was working. I use a dog car ramp to get the barrows up to the top level – yesterday, it was a bit icy so not all the contents of the barrow made it to the top. Dan’s emptying them for me today, ‘cos he’s stronger than me.



John Telford

Friday 23 January, 2015 at 5:43am

Perhaps a silly question but I'm new to this, sorry. Once covered how long does it take before your 'manure pile' becomes usable compost ? Cheers !


Monday 2 February, 2015 at 12:38pm

It's not a silly question John nor a straightforward one unfortunately.

If you're going to be using the manure on non-food crops or areas it can be used fresh, depending what you're fertilising with it. For example comfrey will quite happily take fresh (or 'hot') manure, including chicken manure, because it has a high tolerance to nitrogen and ammonia. More tender non-food plants may be damaged by hot manure though, so it's best rotted down for at least a month or two before use.

In terms of use on food crops, the potential risk is from pathogens in the manure contaminating the crop, for example from splashes when it rains, and then making someone ill.

E-coli, listeria and salmonella are the more commonly know pathogens that *may* be present in the manure and in theory cause a problem.

To be absolutely safe:

1. Compost the manure in a heap until it has cooled down. Depending on local conditions including temperature, worm population, aspect etc, this could take anywhere from 2 months to over a year.

2. Wash all produce from the garden that been in contact with manure, including root vegetables.

3. Peel root vegetables, or cook them to a sufficient temperature to kill any surface pathogens.

We've used animal manure on our veg, fruit and salad beds for years without any apparent issues - just be aware of the risk, minimise and manage it, for example by not applying manure to a bed that's already planted with salad or other leaf crops.

That was a longer answer than I intended, hope it helps!

John Telford

Thursday 2 April, 2015 at 7:36pm

Thanks Dan, that's some excellent information. I appreciate your help. Thank you.

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