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Horse Care and Comfort

Proper Management of Manure

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What steps do you take to compost manure in bitter cold weather? Thank you!
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Speaking as a Master Gardener living at 4000ft in the high desert of Oregon where it’s cold and dry, who has taught classes on composting, the recommended volume of compostable material (in this case, manure) is a pile measuring at least 3 ft x 3 ft x 3 ft.  In other terms, a cubic yard.  This is easy to amass, as I’m sure you are aware, and you won’t believe how quickly the microbes get to work generating heat in the pile!  You do want it to heat up to at least 104F for 3 days in a row to destroy any weed seeds and to compost for at least 3 months to allow any chemicals that may be present to dissipate (this includes meds you have given your equine and any herbicides or pesticides that may be in your hay or feed).  Aeration (air) is critical to maintain aerobic activity in the microbes so be sure to turn your pile once a week - you will witness the steam coming off the pile when you do this, confirmation that composting is happening!  If you are unable to turn the pile you can drill holes in 2” diameter lengths of pvc pipe and insert them into the pile to conduct air to the pile.  You should be rewarded with wonderful garden “black gold” that is odorless and rich in nutrients.  Happy composting!