Horse manure - composting
Local campaigns encourage backyard composting of grass clippings or leaves. Like yard wastes, horse manure and bedding contain the carbon and nitrogen necessary for successful composting. The challenge is to ensure the proper proportions of water, air, carbon, and nitrogen get piled, turned, and aged without contaminants.
Simply piling horse manure is not composting. Composting involves the managed, accelerated decomposition of materials. In decomposition, microorganisms break down organic materials like horse manure into smaller particles. Composting kills weed seeds and reduces pathogens, odors, and volume.
- The type and volume of bedding substantially affects the ease and rate of composting. Many horse owners use fine wood shavings or sawdust for bedding. These materials contain a lot of carbon and will likely require extra nitrogen to effectively compost.
- Sawdust bedding may compact so tightly that it will make the compost pile almost airless. If you use sawdust bedding, add bulking materials as you build the pile such as straw, fall leaves or very coarse wood chips.
- Water is also required for composting. Microorganisms grow best with moisture around 50 percent. If the compost feels like a freshly wrung out sponge, you have achieved the proper amount of moisture.
- Composting is a balancing act. You can become a successful composter by developing a clear understanding of the process, accurately measuring the materials, and going through some trial and error.
- For more information about composting horse manure, contact your local Extension office and request the publication, Manure and Pasture Management for Recreational Horse Owners, Item BU-7540-GO.
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Reviewed by Betsy Wieland 2009.