Cows poop a lot

This is what a ton of manure looks like.

Wheelbarrowload of dead ivy vines in the foreground for scale.

I am thrilled to have finally discovered a source for organic manure. I asked around all last year at different feed stores and was told that it’s not possible to sell manure in MD. Turns out though, it is possible if you’re a farmer and not a store!

It’s cheaper than the compost/soil mix I’d been having delivered. The delivery fee is half what the other guys charge, too. And did I mention that it’s organic? From organic,free-range, grass-fed cattle? I’m so excited that my sustainable organic farming supports the type of agriculture and animal husbandry that I believe in – I get the awesomest soil candy and get to feel good about where my money is going, too. It’s like I get to have my cake and eat it too.

Except it’s really, really stinky cake.

It’s 3 years old, but they don’t turn their piles so it’s not exactly “composted.” It’s been anaerobic this whole time.* And WHEW! What a stench. These last few days, a trip out to the garden instantly plunges me into happy nostalgia for girlhood horse camp. So I might be tempted to say I almost like the smell… but I ain’t about to ask the neighbors.

I’m working as fast as I can with the wheelbarrow to get it spread out on the beds (where it quickly stops stinking) and boy am I getting a workout (this stuff is heavy!)

Once on the ground, it will smother sprouting weeds. Soon the earthworms and other soil organisms will find it and it will boost soil life (and thus fertility) like crazy. When the time comes to plant I will dig a hole through it and plant into the ground. It will act like mulch, and every time it rains the plant will get a drink of manure “tea.” It’s a win-win. This Fall I’ll spread another layer over the top and plant through it. Those Fall plants will grow like crazy with their roots set in this Spring’s manure.

I’d be grinning like a maniac while shoveling it around if only this clothespin on my nose didn’t pinch quite so hard.

* I’m a little unsure of how exactly to use it – should I treat it like fresh and let it compost more before using it? Or is it “well-rotted” and I should just go ahead? I’m opting for the middle path and spreading it now in preparation for planting in a month. It should really have been spread in the Fall, though – if only I’d known this place existed. Now I know for this year.

6 Responses to “Cows poop a lot”

  1. Kathleen Says:

    I like that farm smell too.

  2. Debi Says:

    If it is really really stinky it could use some more composting time, or it may burn your plants. If you have a month, try covering it with black plastic, it will speed up the process, and also make sure it is damp enough.

  3. heidi Says:

    I agree with Debbie.
    Also, if you are working with “organic” manure (i.e. not heat-killed) be sure you are up to date on your tetanus shots…(barnyard poop plus a rusty nail…can lead to a fatal backbending experience.)
    I know, I know, spoken like a mom. Spoken like a pseudo-medico…

  4. diana Says:

    Debi: Thanks for dropping by! I agree, I was reluctant to plant anything into it for fear that burninations would take place. But the guy who dropped it off claimed it would decompose “amazingly” fast because it was so old… he seems to have been right!

    Mama: the “organic” in the manure would come from what the cows were fed and administered, not how the manure was treated. Heat can be an organic process: mostly the heaps are shoved aroudn and the presence of oxygen kickstarts the biological processes that generate their own heat, enough to kill most nasty bacteria etc. It’s why well-turned compost piles can get to 145 in freezing weather and large enough ones can even be used to heat water (copper tubes running inside the giant mound). That said, you can BET I am wearing gloves and not letting SofĂ­a anywhere near it.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    It would be better to let it compost more before putting it on. The official organic production rule is that you need to wait 120 days between the application of fresh manure and the harvest of anything you’re going to eat, to be sure the types of poo bacteria that can make you sick have broken down. So, you’re still cutting it close, and your manure isn’t completely fresh, but maybe just use it on the beds for things that you’ll harvest later in the summer. (if you plant your tomatoes about a month from now, and they take 80 days to mature, you should be about good. Don’t know when you plant tomatoes in MD.)

    Anyway, still loving your blog! Out here in Idaho we can get composted poo delivered by the semi-load, about 25 tons. Pretty much the only advantage to having feed lots around.

    take care! Katie

  6. diana Says:

    Katie it’s great to have some actual facts and numbers to latch onto, thanks! That makes a lot of sense and will help me determine which beds to cover and which to let alone. Right now I have some beds with a beautiful clover cover crop that I was loathe to smother with manure, but I thought I had to. Maybe I can plant my short-season crops in there first. I do wish I’d known about the state of the manure back in Fall, when it really SHOULD have been spread. Ah well, at least this year I can get it right! :)

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