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One More Manure Post

February 12, 2011

Nature builds soil by applying organic matter on top the soil, and in that vein we have been lightly sheet mulching here and there.  A neighbor brings us stable cleanings from her horse barn.  The material consists of mostly sawdust with some horse manure mixed in.  She is not a serial anthelmintic user and I know her horses are healthy, so no worries there.   We are happy to take this off her hands, and she is happy to get rid of it.  That’s what I call a good neighborly relationship.

Besides sheet mulching weak pasture areas, we also use this as bedding for the chicks when they arrive, and lately to add more carbon to Jane’s stall.  Our stall floors are packed clay, and years of use with a peeing cow results in low spots that just gather more urine.  And we really want the nutrients that urine provides and to keep Jane dry in her night stall.  More carbon is the answer, and this reclaimed bedding works very well for this.  My neighbor cleans her stalls and keeps the cleanings covered until they are dumped, so the sawdust is for the most part dry, or at least dry enough to absorb more moisture.  This is also a good time to mention again if your stall area smells you need to add more carbon.

We don’t strip the stalls every day, we just pick instead, taking out manure and urine soaked bedding.  With a horse this is easier because they (most horses I have seen anyway) naturally pick a toilet area in their stalls or pasture and use that religiously.  Cows aren’t quite so picky.  The two photos above show Jane’s stall picked and ready for new bedding.  I filled the hole with the sawdust/manure mix and will cover it with fresh straw.  When the sawdust in the hole is saturated with urine (takes about a week) I will take all that material out and repeat the process of filling and covering.

The sheet mulch.  The material is light and easily spread by hand, err, with a manure fork, and the grass is already poking through.  When we get creative, we can build soil in many ways.   This is a free resource delivered to my door, I like trying find the highest and best use of this recycled material.  Regifting at it’s best 🙂

19 Comments leave one →
  1. February 13, 2011 12:14 am

    You are so “lucky” to have manure on hand. I have to buy mine and haul it from the store to the dock, from the dock to the cabin deck, from the cabin deck to the garden float, and then work it in. Not quite a self-sustaining situation, but better than nothing I guess. – Margy

  2. Sid permalink
    February 13, 2011 2:43 am

    Do you apply the manure directly to the field, or is it composted first? If you compost first, what time of the year do you bring it out to the fields?

    • February 13, 2011 6:46 am

      Sid, with this we just apply it to the top, it takes a long time to compost sawdust. As long as it goes on top it works great. Too much carbon for the garden, but for pasture it works like a dream.

  3. February 13, 2011 4:17 am

    I sheet compost too and I’d love some manure! It’s like black gold in the garden, as is the straw. We have a racetrack nearby (guaranteed drug free!) I think I will approach them about cleaning out the manure and bedding for them.

    • February 13, 2011 6:48 am

      Sheryl, it works great as long as you don’t do too much or work this in the soil due the its nitrogen robbing attributes from being high carbon.

  4. February 13, 2011 5:03 am

    The extra urine absorbed by the sawdust through the process of reusing it in Jane’s stall (or elsewhere) will help the sawdust to break down/compost faster and better, too. Sawdust is high carbon and can absorb a lot of nitrogen. I’ve been using sawdust as the main bedding material for my cows for the last month. I ran out of straw, and sawdust is cheaper to get than straw here. It really works well, keeping the cows dry, and should make cleaning out the cow’s area of the barn easier this spring, too. I’ve gotten horse bedding for my compost piles before, and I mixed it with manure since the horses had only slightly used it. I’m looking forward to spreading several inches of compost on my garden this spring and seeing how it affects food production this year.

    • February 13, 2011 7:00 am

      DP, it does make a huge difference at clean out time. But is too expensive to buy here now, it used to be very affordable, I used shavings all time, but now it would be a luxury. We used to go to the trouble of composting this material, and then several times we ran out of room and had the guy put it where we were moving the laying flock to. We built the Feathernet around the horse manure pile, moved the skid and let the chickens spread it and the resulting grass was astounding. The chicken manure helped of course but the carbon is what is missing in most fertilizing endeavors. That’s why mob stocking works so well with stockpiled forages, and just fertilizing with nitrogen is depleting.

      If you do use it in your garden, it would probably be best not to till it in, unless it is about half straw/half sawdust as your carbon component, otherwise your garden will spend all summer breaking down the sawdust.

  5. February 13, 2011 10:19 am

    Hi, long time lurker, failure as a composter. You’re such a tease with your gorgeous compost! My huge manure pile appears to have died over the winter. Do you think if I rebuild it with more carbon it’ll heat back up this spring? Can I till half-finished compost into my sandy ground and grow anything this year, or is that asking for disaster?

    • February 13, 2011 11:15 am

      Hi Funder, I wouldn’t bother trying to redo the pile, it’s breaking down I’m sure without you noticing. It will turn into soil with patience and probably is perfect for your garden. The only disaster would be if it was primarily sawdust, otherwise I’d just go for it.

      • February 14, 2011 7:07 am

        Thanks Matron. I will go back to having patience! 🙂

  6. February 13, 2011 10:56 am

    Love that soil! I have been enjoying your manure posts : )!

    I was so sad to see that I missed the raffle. I was secretly admiring the hook that Mr. Matron had made. He is quite the artist. I was happy to see you gave one away though. What a generous gift!

    I had a question on re-seeding pasture. I only need a pasture/s for the small flock of 5 sheep. We only have 2 acres. I found a gentleman on Craigslist, but he asked for $600 to r-seed!! Can you believe it?

    What do you do to re-seed?


    • February 13, 2011 11:22 am

      WEF, LOL he’s making the hook right now as we speak, or at least I hope that’s what he’s doing…;)

      We don’t reseed anymore, the grasses and forbs I want just appear. But, if I was going to I would just broadcast it either by hand or with a seeder you can wear around your neck. Your local feedstore or rental place may have one for reseeding lawns etc. Any good pasture mix of seed will do, with several different kinds of grasses and clovers. That should put you in business, then it’s up to you to shepherd the baby grass from those sharp and undiscerning sheep teeth 🙂 Plan on seeding before a good rain and that will help the seed take hold.

      • February 13, 2011 1:53 pm

        : ) lol. Ask him what his capacity of production is? I might put that hook up as an item on our etsy shop – if he wants. Mrs is working on building the shop. Wouldn’t it be fun for him to have his line of hooks in an online shop? [I am sure he is plenty busy as is]

        Thanks for the re-seeding tip! I am glad I dont have to spend $600 for seeding 2 acres. You are right…I have to rescue the young grass from the flock. Some people forecast clover seed on the snow…I tried last year…maybe it worked, but the sheep must have eaten it up.

        • February 14, 2011 6:08 am

          WEF, I’ll ask him…although his honey-do list is pretty big 😉

          White clover can take close grazing, but red clover cannot, and soil conditions have to be right for clover to grow anyway, so it may be that your seed just didn’t find the right conditions to grow. If you see clover in parts of your pasture that the sheep don’t have access to, you have the right conditions for clover, if you don’t see any in non-grazed grassy areas, you need to work some on soil health. Try a religious rotation/rest period for your pasture instead of reseeding and you will see great results, I promise!

  7. Jenny permalink
    February 13, 2011 1:11 pm

    Your manure posts are fine by me. I eat them up, as it were.

  8. Christina permalink
    February 14, 2011 12:20 pm

    Are there things one should ask about when looking to free-harvest stall manure from local sources? I set up four pallet bins in a friend’s meadow, for composting stall materials from his neighbor’s horse operation, and I brought home my first load last fall and spread it on my garden beds over our rainy SanFran area winter. But I never asked any questions about what the material was going to be like (it’s mostly sawdust bedding), or whether there might be things in the horses’ diet or health management that I wouldn’t want to dump onto my organic beds! I noticed an interesting cup-shaped mushroom in there over the winter, and it got me worried about these issues – any advice would be appreciated!! Fortunately I only put this material into my new front yard areas, and not in the well-established backyard garden…

    • February 14, 2011 2:08 pm

      Christina, sawdust is about the safest because there isn’t the possible herbicide residue like there is with straw products. The one thing you should find out is how often the horses are wormed and with what. If it’s not often, the organic matter gain offsets any possible contamination, but some, due to the way horses are kept, worm monthly. It just depends on the horse owners train of thought and what they think is a “good” care for horses. It’s common in the livestock industry to use products like that instead of applying a different management mindset of maintaining a healthy animal. And people on both sides feed strongly that their way is right. It’s easy to ruffle some feathers.

  9. February 14, 2011 2:18 pm

    I can hardly wait until I get to spread our manure around!!!


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