Composting Manure – Methods, Process

Composting Manure Methods

Hello friends today we are here with a new topic called “methods and process of composting manure”.

What is Compost?

Compost is defined as a mixture of some organic residues such as manure, animal carcasses, and straw, etc., that has been piled, mixed, and moistened to undergo thermophilic decomposition. Composting manure piles is a great method to produce healthy soil, which produces healthy plants. Soil and compost must be tested for nutrients. The volume reduction of composting manure can also save producers money. In this article, we also discuss the below topics about composting manure methods;

  • What are different methods of composting
  • How do you compost manure
  • How do you make compost manure fast
  • How much time it takes for manure to compost
  • Which manure is best for compost
  • How do you compost animal manure
  • benefits of composting manure
  • How much time it takes for chicken manure to compost
  • Is composted chicken manure safe
  • How do you compost horse manure

Composting reduces environmental risks of applying raw manure, and it contributes to more long-term soil health so it is preferred by many organic growers. Good animal manure composting methods needs the introduction of oxygen. Compost can be applied to agricultural fields as a fertilizer, and also added to improve soil structure, substituted for peat in horticulture, and also used as a microbial additive to increase enzyme activities.

Composting is a natural procedure of aerobic decomposition or fermentation of manure by microorganisms. The compost is rich in organic matter and also improves soil health. Some of the major benefits of composting include improved fertility, water-holding capacity, bulk density, and biological properties. Composting can help kill some pathogens in manure. It also leads to up to 50 to 60% of reduction in the volume and density of slurry, thereby making its transportation more energy-efficient than that of non-composted manure.

Composting animal manure act as a soil amendment to increase soil health. Also, the soil health benefits associated with applying animal manure compost, and some other benefits are improved storage options, reduced volume of material to be transported and spread on fields, and also it is suitable to be spread on hay and pastures during the growing season.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Composting Manure Methods, Process

Composting Manure
Composting Manure (Image credit: pixabay)

Benefits of Composting Manure

The major benefits of compost have soil reclamation, producing marketable products, improving the disposal of agricultural waste, kitchen garbage, and livestock manure, enhancing land utilization, lowering pollution risk, eliminating pathogenic bacteria, using compost as feed substitute, preventing diseases.

  • It enriches the soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant pests and diseases.
  • Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • It reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers carbon footprint.
  • Reduces mass and volume
  • Lower hauling costs
  • Reduces odour
  • Pathogens are destroyed
  • Kills weed seeds
  • Improves transportability
  • Soil conditioner
  • Improves nutrient qualities
  • The nutrients from compost are released slowly
  • Land application when convenient
  • Saleable product
  • Increases water retention of soil

Site Selection for Manure Composting

Surface and groundwater proximity is necessary for compost site selection. Animal manure composting techniques take place in an area that drains well but where leachate will not reach the public waters of the state. The pad ideally must flow into a containment pond. The site should never go along surface waters of the country, on soil textures coarser than a sandy loam or within a flood plain.

Ideal areas for composting are well-drained, have slopes of 2 to 4%, consist of concrete or packed soil, and drain into a containment pond. Windrows must be constructed parallel to the slope. Well-drained, slopes will prevent the windrow from blocking runoff and also implement access to the pad. Slopes exceeding 6% may be prone to erosion and can cause pad issues.

In case if you miss this: How To Grow Organic Coriander.

Compost Grinder
Compost Grinder (Image source: pixabay)

Factors Affecting the Composting Process

The factors affecting the composting manure process are C/N ratio, moisture, oxygen and aeration interaction, temperature levels, pH level, raw material size of composting, and so on. Controlling the composting process factors can accelerate the natural composting process. Each of these factors has the potential to significantly affect the composting procedure.


Temperature is a very good indicator of the composting process occurring within the material. The temperature level increases due to the microbial activity and is noticeable within a few hours of forming a pile as easily degradable compounds are consumed. It is an important factor in the composting process along with the C/N ratio, moisture content, pH level, and aeration. The actual temperature will change by the size of the compost bin, moisture content, ventilation, aeration, air temperature, and material type being composted. The heat generated during the thermophilic stage of the hot composting process is an important factor in the plant pathogen elimination in the organic materials.

Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio

In composting process, the C/N ratio is the essential factor that affects the process because microbes need 20 to 25 times more carbon than nitrogen. High carbon to nitrogen ratio can lead to prolonged composting duration and low C/N ratios enhance nitrogen loss. The C/N ratio can be regulated by selecting the most suitable combination of compost materials and also added bulking agents to ensure a final ratio within the optimum range.


Adequate levels of phosphorus (P), potassium (K), carbon (C), and nitrogen (N), etc. are important in the process of composting and are normally present in farm organic materials such as manure and livestock mortalities. Nutrient loss can occur through volatilization, atmosphere losses, and leaching.

Moisture and Aeration

Compost materials and the organisms that break them down both require moisture and oxygen to working. The pile can require watering during dry periods to ensure it remains moist throughout. Turning the pile once a week provides additional aeration and ensures moist which speeds the composting process. Overly wet piles will break down slowly, so it can be necessary to cover the pile with a tarp during wet, rainy weather.

The composting mass has certain minimum moisture content in it for the organisms to survive. The optimum moisture content is between 50 to 60%.

Composting Manure Process

The land base required to apply manure compost stays the same but the producer can economically haul compost further than manure. By properly managing the composting process, the producer facilitates these decomposing microbes. The manure must be piled, the carbon-to-nitrogen (C/N) ratio must be 30-to-1, 50% of the pore space must contain water and the pile must be aerobic (having oxygen).

Manure is piled into a windrow. The pile generally is 10 to 12 feet wide and 4 to 6 feet high. After a day or two, the pile must reach temperatures above 48°C. The Carbon to Nitrogen ratio in a composting pile needs to range from 20-to-1 (20 parts of carbon for every part of nitrogen) to 40-to-1 (40 parts of carbon for every part of nitrogen). Decomposing microorganisms have a C/N ratio of 5-to-1 to 10-to-1. The C/N ratio needs to be higher because 50% of the metabolized carbon is released as CO2. Nitrogen can be lost when too much like C/N ratio below 20-to-1 is present, and the pile might smell of volatilizing ammonia. Adding carbon (straw or woodchips) can help alleviate this and too much carbon means a C/N ratio of more than 40-to-1 in a compost pile can immobilize nitrogen and slows the composting procedure.

Composting material’s Carbon to Nitrogen ratio varies greatly. Then, the C/N ratio of bulking materials of plant origin changes greatly as well and for the same reasons as manures. Water management is important in compost because 40 to 65% of the pore space in composting materials should have water. A wet rag test is mainly to test the moisture. Squeeze the compost and feel for moisture. If water drips out, and then it is too wet. If the compost feels like a wrung-out wet rag, the compost has sufficient moisture content and remembers to wash hands after working with compost.

Then, the microorganisms that transform manure into compost need oxygen for their energy-deriving chemical reactions. Less than 5% of oxygen within the pore space will turn the pile anaerobic (without oxygen), may create a rotten-egg smell, and will slow the process of composting. Some aerobic conditions can be replenished by turning the pile.

To efficiently compost manure, turn the pile when temperature levels drop below 43°C. After 3 to 5 turns, the manure must be composted. Temperatures should be taken at various locations and compost windrows can be turned in every 10 days or 2 weeks. Then, this can minimize labor while creating a good-quality product.

Organic operations should meet certain temperature and turning frequency requirements. The National Organic Program requires pile temperatures to exceed 55°C for 15 days and piles to be turned at least 5 times. Piles can exceed 71°C, which can destroy the beneficial microbes, causing a decline in microbial activity and slowing the process.

Nutrient Management of Composting Manure

Composting manure not only improves soil physical and chemical characteristics, and also is a good source of fertilizer for crop production. But, much of the nitrogen is tied up in complex organic compounds (immobilized) and is not immediately ready for plant uptake, whereas commercial fertilizers are predominantly plant-available. Cropland soils and compost must be tested for nutrients. Some essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium tend to be the most limiting nutrients required by crops. Some crop and environmental benefits could not occur if the finished composted product is not tested and properly applied. Once cured, compost samples must be taken within the pile at various points and mixed thoroughly to account for variability.

Composting manure nutrient availability is different and producers need to account for the differences. This difference is due to the increased compost stability. Because of immobilization and the possibility of nutrient loading, compost fertilizer applications need to be supplemented with conventional fertilizers. Compost must be applied with a calibrated spreader. This ensures that the proper amount of nutrients is applied and lessens the chance of polluting. Manure spreaders can be calibrated in several ways.

Manure composts not only improve soil physical and chemical characteristics, and they also are a good source of fertilizer for crop production. Though, much of the nitrogen is tied up in complex organic compounds and is not immediately ready for plant uptake. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium tend to be the most limiting nutrients essential by crops. To sustain growth, plants should assimilate a variety of nutrients, most notably nitrogen and phosphorus. These nutrients are invariably present in animal manure and manure thus serves as an effective fertilizer. Compost nutrient availability is different, and producers need to account for the differences and this difference is due to the increased compost stability.

Composting Manure of Animals

  • Animal manure composting techniques can be physical, biological, or chemical.
  • The main objectives of manure treatment include reduction of manure volume, improvement of its applicability, and an increase in fertilizer value.
  • Many forms of treatment can be implemented and composting, and the process of amending the soil to grow better crops goes back to prehistory.
Animal Manure Composting Methods Using Aeration

Turning manure is necessary to composting manure. Mixing allows more contact of slurry with microbes. Producers have several ways to turn the collection. The two common methods for turning compost are with a windrow turner or bucket tractor. Manure should be adequately managed to be composted properly. Carbon/nitrogen ratios must be about 30-to-1, moisture content must be around 50%, and air needs to be incorporated routinely by turning. Then, this medium ensures that the pile will heat and convert to compost effectively.

Animal Manure Composting Methods Using Calibrated Spreaders

Compost must be applied with a calibrated spreader. This process ensures that the proper amount of nutrients is used and also lessens the chance of polluting. Manure spreaders can be calibrated in various ways. Though, if manure is applied to the soil at a rate, which exceeds plant assimilation, a build-up of nutrients can occur. Such nutrients, which contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and minerals, can cause dangerous pollution.

Using animal manure composting methods is a useful management tool. Animal waste management strategies adopted must efficiently mitigate the negative impact of manure on the environment and the general public. Many benefits are derivable from sustainable manure management.

Composting Chicken Manure

Composting is a process in which microorganisms naturally break down materials into fertilizer through oxygen-based decomposition. Raw chicken manure can burn and damage plants. It must be composted or aged before use. The microorganisms decompose organic materials and, in this procedure, the compost pile starts to heat up. Temperatures inside a pile of organic materials can reach between 71 and 76°C and could stay at that level for a few weeks.

During this composting procedure, decomposition occurs fairly fast. As the bacteria consume the organic matter, the decomposition procedure slows down and temperatures in the pile decrease to around 37°C. The compost begins to cure and can be stockpiled at this point.

Composting chicken manure is a simple process. If you have chickens, and then you can use the bedding from your chickens. If you do not own chickens, locate a farmer who owns chickens, and then they will most likely be happy to give you the used chicken bedding. Water it carefully and then turn the pile every few weeks to get air into the pile. On average, it takes about 6 to 9 months for chicken manure compost to be done accurately. Once you have finished the chicken manure composting process, it is ready to use. Chicken manure for garden fertilizing will produce excellent soil for plants to grow in. You will find that your plants will grow bigger and healthier as a result of using chicken manure fertilizer.

Benefits of Chicken Manure

If chicken manure is too strong to be used raw on plants, it can be composted and then converted to “black gold”. If used without composting it can damage roots and possibly kill your plants, once it is composted chicken manure is;

  • Chicken manure is a good soil amendment that adds organic matter to the soil and also increases the water-holding capacity in soil.
  • Chicken manure acts as good fertilizer and that means provides Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium to your plants (more than horse, cow or steer manure).
Composting Horse Manure

Composting also provides another option for managing manure on the farm. Composting horse manure can help the compost pile become supercharged. It contains adequate amounts of organic matter and can be applied in several ways.

Composting horse manure is not any different from traditional composting procedures. This procedure does not require any special tools or structures. Small amounts of horse manure can be composted by using a shovel. Also, a simple, free-standing pile can be easily turned into compost. Frequent turning helps to speed up the composting procedure. Covering the pile with a tarp can help keep it dry, but still moist enough to work with, as well as retain necessary heat. There is no set ideal time for how long to compost horse manure, but it takes 2 to 3 months if done properly. Soil aeration and drainage can be greatly improved, which results in the healthier growth of plants.

Making Compost from Horse Manure

Though, any system should consist of the following simple components;

  • A staging area for raw manure;
  • A set of 4 to 6 bins or free-standing piles large enough to maintain elevated internal temperatures;
  • Also, moving the compost from bin to the bin like hand labor for small operations; and
  • A water faucet or a pump or water tank combination, and a spray nozzle.

Advantages of composting horse manure

  • Reduces manure volume by half
  • Kills most parasites, bacteria, and weed seeds
  • Breaks down bedding material

Key Factors for Composting Horse Manure Success

1) Horse manure composting process requires a C/N ratio between 15:1 and 40:1. Horse manure has a C: N ratio of 30:1 while wood products have a fairly high C: N ratio (approximately 500:1). If you need to add nitrogen to the mixture, you can achieve this by adding higher nitrogen content materials like grass clippings (17:1), wasted hay (15-32:1), or nitrogen fertilizer to the pile.

2) It has a moisture content range of 40 to 60%. As a general rule, compost must be moist to touch. When squeezing a handful of compost, it must feel like a damp sponge. If too dry, water must be added, preferably by a uniform, consistent spray.

3) It requires a temperature range of 37 to 65°C. The rise in temperature level to a range of 37 to 65°C is a result and an indicator of composting activity. Temperatures within this range enhance microbial reproduction. Low-temperature levels can be caused by too much or too little moisture, lack of oxygen, and an inappropriate C: N ratio. Temperature levels above 65°C kill composting organisms and are not desirable.

4) An oxygen concentration greater than 5%. Aeration by turning, moving, or mixing the compost batch promotes the growth of hardier, and providing the desired oxygen concentration of about 5 to 20%.

Cow Manure Composting

Cow dung is rich in nutrients and it contains 3-2-1 NPK that is about 3% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus, and 1% potassium. Composted cow manure fertilizer makes a good growing medium for plants. Also, it can be mixed into the soil or used as a top dressing. Heavy manures such as that of cows should be mixed with lighter materials like straw or hay, and also the usual organic substances from vegetable matter, garden debris, etc. Also, small amounts of lime or ash may be added. An important consideration when composting cow manure is the size of the pile. If it’s too small, it won’t provide enough heat, which is necessary for the composting. Too big, and the pile may not get enough air. Therefore, frequently turning the pile is necessary. With the addition of cow manure fertilizer, you can improve the overall health of the soil and then produce healthy, vigorous plants.

Benefits Cow Manure Compost

Composting cow manure has several advantages. To eliminating harmful ammonia gas and pathogens such as E. coli, in addition to composted cow manure will add generous amounts of organic matter to the soil. By mixing this compost into the soil, you can also improve its moisture-holding capacity. Then, this allows you to water less frequently, as the roots of plants can use the additional water and nutrients when needed. Composting cow manure produces about a third fewer greenhouse gases, and then making it environmentally friendly.


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