Composting Horse Manure as a Revenue Source

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Any stable, large or small has access to an endless supply of manure.Barns with ample acreage may spread manure on the fields as a natural fertilizer.Other stables are forced to pile manure in a far corner on the edge of the property or pay a hauler to remove the manure from the facility.

While stable owners consider manure unwanted waste, if composted, the manure can become a profitable method for dealing with manure.Stables of all sizes can benefit from composting manure.“One horse will produce enough to start a compost pile for the practical purposes of most back yard gardeners,” said Don Stanton, owner of Seven Year Gold in New York.

Gardeners pay premium prices at home improvement stores for compost materials to provide nutrients for their ornamental flower gardens.

Prior to beginning any compost site, check local zoning laws that will dictate where on the property a compost pile can be stored.“You have to be extremely careful about runoff into streams, ponds, rivers or anywhere else where the D.E.C. could give you problems,” Stanton added.

The compost pile should be located at least 200 feet from any water source, sinkholes or areas that have excess water.The material can be placed in windrow formations or stored in bins with concrete sides and a roof.The number of horses on the property and state regulations will determine what type of configuration is necessary.

Composting does not require much ongoing maintenance, but it does need active management. A windrow composting operation will require a decent sized tractor and a front end loader for regular churning.

“Some composters 'churn' the compost, but one of the problems of churning compost is that in so doing you also mix in weed seeds,” Stanton said. “However, churning it speeds up the composting process tremendously. It can take many years for manure to compost naturally, but churning it can reduce that to several months.”

Another alternative is an outdoor bunker, built much like seasonal skating rinks. A perimeter is created and the ground is covered with plastic to prevent leaching. Once built, the bunker is loaded with organic waste and the material is allowed to “run” for three months. At the end of three months the system is broken apart, cleaned out and started all over again.

Regardless of the method chosen to compost the manure, once fully processed, the organic compost can be bagged and marketed for sale.