Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Using Manure

Manure = animal digestive waste. Poo. Poop. Crap. Do-do.  Fecal material. Excrement. Droppings. Muck. Dung. Scat. Turds. Sh*t. Then there's species specific: horse apples, cow pies, buffalo chips. Hubbies favorite term for it all.....toxic waste.

Most farming peoples around the world know that manure improves garden yields. Various animal manures are used, including human. Yes, there can be a danger when using manure, especially human, but much of the danger (pathogens) can be eliminated via hot composting or via isolation for an extended period of time (one example : storing moist manure/sawdust mix in a drum for two years). 

What benefit is there in manure? The first that comes to mind is nitrogen. But most manures also contain an assortment of minerals and other nutrients that are beneficial, and often fiber that serves as a soil conditioner. 

What are the cons associated with manure? Foremost would be pathogens that carry disease and parasites that could be transmitted to humans. (The main danger is with commercial farms where raw manure is applied to the land, manure that comes from already contaminated commercial livestock farms.) Excessive amounts of manure could result in too much nitrogen for the plants being grown, or too much water holding capabilities in poorly drained soils. Over application or improper application could result in noxious odors and pests (especially flies), and could lead to run off or water pollution. And some manures could contain unacceptable levels of questionable chemicals, such as deworming agents, antibiotics, medications, etc. And lastly, it isn't vegan. 

Pros on using manure...
...a significant source of nitrogen
...a source of other plant nutrients
...beneficial soil minerals
...beneficial microbes
...a soil conditioner improve soil moisture capacity support worms and soldier fly colonies

Cons on using manure...
...psychological ick factor
...possible disease pathogens
...possible parasite vectors
...potential for odor 
...potential to draw flies and other vermin
...possible noxious chemicals unnaturally found in the manure (antibiotics, medications, deworming agents, chemicals consumed via food and water) 
...potential for water contamination

What manures do I use on my own homestead? Depending upon the situation, any except human. I don't have a set up yet to deal with human manure safely for use in a food garden. Am I repulsed by human manure? No. Would I be willing to use it? Perhaps someday but not yet. I would want to set up a hot composting system capable of rendering pathogens null before I'd be willing to incorporate it into my system. Having said that, I admit that I do have a field latrine set up down in the orchard in spots where I plan to plant a tree in the future. The latrine hole is filled in via Iayers of horse manure, grass clippings, soil, and human waste. When it is filled to one foot of the surface, it then gets completed with soil and a young tree is planted. I have already done this multiple times and have planted several trees. Since the hole is filled via hot composting (though not monitored nor controlled) and is not subject to being dug up for many years, plus is not in a flood area, I feel that it is a safe way to utilize human waste this way. 

Basically I handle all manures this way.....
...Hot composting for manures that are used in food gardens, except tree foods. 
...No composting for manures used on trees or placed below the surface where they will not be subjected to digging up or flooding for two years. Often non-composted manure, especially horse manure, has sat in a pile and been aged for several months before I use it. 
...Hot composting for areas that have been known to flood, such as some of the taro beds. 

Horse manure. Experience has shown this to be a good soil conditioner and source of nitrogen. In general, I find it to be an overall great fertilizer and soil conditioner. I use it as a major component in my hot compost piles because it gives good heat while not compacting. Once aged or composted, it does not seem to burn plants. 

Rabbit manure. This is my favorite for the food gardens. It is easy to incorporate and doesn't burn the crops. Nor does it need to be hot composted. The worms seem to like areas where I've incorporated rabbit manure. Rabbit manure is considered a safe manure to use around food gardens. 

Chicken manure. A little goes a long way when it comes to chicken manure. It is considered to be a "hot" manure, so I apply it sparingly. Leafy crops respond favorably to chicken manure. I always hot compost it for a minimum of 3 weeks (I will compost it far longer if I have the time) before using because of it's tendency to cause burning. Once composted it seems safer to use, but I still apply it sparingly. 

   Cow. I don't have a cow and don't bother to go out and collect it. But I believe cow manure, handled as I would horse manure, would be good for gardens. 
   Sheep and goat. I leave these manures out in the field to benefit the pastures. 
   Pig. The pigs root up their pen, thus burying their manure in the process. I never see it unless I happen to be there when the event happens. If perchance my pig confinement pens in the future were set up for manure collection, then I would indeed use pig manure. I'd handle it as I would chicken manure. 
   Cat and dog. I add these to my biotrash pits (a.k.a.- hugel pits). These pits will not be dug up in my lifetime, thus posing no danger. 
    Fish mulm. Mulm is the sludge from the bottom of my ponds.  It consists of fish poo and decaying vegetation. I occasionally scoop some out and till it into the garden soil. My ponds don't generate very much. 

My manure use is self-sustaining in that I do not go out and bring manure back to the farm. I only use manures generated on the homestead. There are two main reasons I do this.
1) It takes too much time to go out a gather manure from other people's pastures. 
2) I won't accidently introduce unwanted pathogens that other people's animals may harbor. 

1 comment:

  1. Fineartgourds emailed........
    In the late 70's, on the Sausalito waterfront, we had a monster community composting toilet, run by a guy named Lester, known locally and forever as"Les Waste"....He actually ended up on the staff with Stuart Brand and Whole Earth, which was headquartered down in the area. Anyway, we were all broke to compost by the time he was done! It can be more effective on a smaller scale in a 55 gallon drum with a seat on top, usually placed in privacy but with a maximum view to encourage production.... Old fashioned outhouses always were situated with the best view on the place for the same reason, our ancestors diet tending to chronic constipation... They were sealed, laid on their side and turned occassionally for a couple of years, after which they were deemed safe. (the drums, not the ancestors) As I recall, for an entire community, the supply of sawdust became the major issue, once the various big wooden boats were completed. Don't know what eventually became of our production as I moved on to Hawaii