Add Manure to your Compost? What kinds are okay?

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When disposing of manure, composting is a quick and efficient way to get rid of the mess. Each type of manure should be treated differently though. Manure from herbivores has very different types of bacteria than manure from omnivores and predators. If you raise cattle or sheep, their manure has very few pathogens and can be composted easily. Droppings from cats or dogs require special treatment, and they should only be handled with protective gear such as gloves and face masks.

Cow patties make a great compost starter for compost piles or composters. Manure from sheep, cows, rabbits, llamas, goats, hamsters, and similar animals is a “green” compost – high in nitrogen and aerobic bacteria. This type of manure should be stirred into compost heaps and added when turning compost piles. It makes a great accelerant, but should be balanced with carbon rich compost to avoid overheating.

Horse manure is a unique case, because horses love to eat wildflowers and weeds but they don’t have a particularly efficient stomach system. Often, the seeds of these weeds will pass through the horse intact, and they can grow from horse droppings. Horse patties can be used in compost just like other plant eater’s manure, but they should only be used in situations where the compost pile reaches gets hot enough to sterilize the seeds. That requires sustained temperatures in the 140-160 degree range (anything cooler than that and the seeds will survive, anything hotter than that and there’s a risk of spontaneous combustion). Horse manure can also be used in worm bins, because worms will eat the seeds and prevent germination.

Waste from meat eating animals should not be mixed with food scraps. Poop from cats, dogs, lizards, and snakes is often contaminated with harmful bacteria such as e coli. Not only are pet droppings unhealthy to touch, but these bacteria can interfere with proper decomposition in a compost pile. Stomach bacteria are generally anaerobic, and they work using slower mechanisms than aerobic bacteria. Anaerobes can also linger in the soil, where they attack the roots of plants and contaminate food grown in that area.

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