Manure Management

I have had two horses on my new property (my first) since November. The manure pile is starting to get sizeable and I have yet to come to agreement with my husband on what to do with it.

We have a little more than 7 acres, but most of it is non-horsey or otherwise in use for barn, paddocks, planned riding ring. We also have a section that we don’t use at all, but it’s a weird spot on the other side of the driveway and abuts the neighbors. That section is quite wet right now and the edge of it is actual wetlands.

I think our best options are either composting or spreading it on the unused section. I would like to compost it (and then spread it) but my husband is concerned that composting could be an eyesore and will potentially be smelly, and doesn’t want to upset the neighbors.

For people who compost, how do you do it? I’ve read about the three bin systems. Is that what you do? How big are your bins? How often do you turn the piles? If I’m being honest, turning them any more often than when a bin is full sounds like a PITA. How long does it take for the process to complete in winter? Any advantages or disadvantages I should be aware of?

For those who spread, how often do you do it? If you can’t spread in the winter, do you take what you have stored up from the winter and spread it all at once in April? Any upsides or downsides you want to mention? The section we would spread on will likely remain just an unused piece of property. Definitely no plans to put paddocks over there.

Our barn is in the suburbs and we have the manured hauled out in a dumpster. It takes about a week or two to fill the dumpster and obviously we pay hundreds of dollars per load. We have 59 horses here. We also run a compost pile, but over the summer it gets taken by gardeners before it has a chance to truly compost so we don’t really manage it.

I don’t think a two horse compost will get that smelly. You can also add yard and kitchen waste. However I would put it away from the property line and close to where the manure source is.

Horses won’t eat grass that has grown out of fresh manure so you don’t want to be spreading manure every week all summer or they won’t graze. I would use your compost as fertilizer in early spring.

I have four horses that are in overnight on bedding pellets and out during the day. I have a three bin system and each bin is 8’ x 16’. I can fit a year of waste in there. It takes about three months to fill a bin.

I dump into the current bin out of my muck cart. When I reach the end of the bin, I use the tractor to pile it up and push it back into the bin. Then continue adding and piling until the bin is full. Then I use the tractor to move it all to the next bin.

Compost takes maybe 4-6 months ish to be totally done. I use it mainly as fill. I could also spread it, but it’s a pain to fill the spreader with the same tractor you pull the spreader with.

The bins don’t smell and don’t seem to draw flies. I do use fly predators.

It wouldn’t be doable without a tractor.

There are usually pretty tight regulations about what can be done on or near wetlands, and I’d be awfully surprised if spreading manure–even fully composted–was permitted in any way.

I just want to second this and say that it being a pain is an understatement.

We spread our pile and only have one tractor so there is a lot of unhooking and hooking going on.

You can dress up a composting area a bit, but fact remains it’s a big pile of manure. This is a picture of Martha Stewart’s compost pile–so if that’s what HER compost pile looks like, yours probably won’t be much more attractive.

It would be a colossal mistake to spread manure right next to your neighbor’s property. Aside from the environmental issue of it being a wetland, that’s the kind of behavior that makes all horsepeople look bad. A pretty safe rule for good neighbor behavior is: Don’t do anything right by their house that you wouldn’t do right by yours.

Astounding that there was no plan for manure before you moved the horses home, but anyway. On a small acreage, and given you don’t seem interested in actively managing a compost pile to produce good compost, your best bet is to get a small dumpster from a trash hauler and just have it hauled away.

Yeah, I didn’t think about having to use one tractor to both fill and spread. Good point.

Can you spread fully cured compost on paddocks? One which will be partially dirt (the rest stone dust so obviously I wouldn’t put it there) and the other is grass. The grass one is quite large (at least for MA standards) – probably about an acre if not more.

Please don’t put it (the manure pile) in the wetlands area! Reason one: bad for the wetlands. Reason two: if you think that area is difficult now…wait till it is a saturated pile of manure. It won’t compost well there either. And your neighbors will hate you. However, you could spread it once a year on that area, once composted. Spring is best
I create a pile in the winter, usually with ‘walls’ of haybale/straw. It tends to cook down quite well. I either spread it back out on a field in the spring or sell/give it away to friends, family, and a neighboring flower farm. I usually have a two year rotation going. Try to create a space that is easily accessible and dry. Soaking wet manure just doesn’t break down as well.
I create my pile using our small tractor with a front end loader (a god send) and spread it using the manure spreader that is ancient but operational. New ones have come along way.
You can absolutely spread it back out on the grass field or your lawn for that matter!

Yes you can spread the compost. Depending on how fine your spreader will chop it up, it may look ugly at first, but after a couple rains it’ll incorporate itself into the field. If you put the work into making good compost, you can often give it away. Set aside empty grain bags for this purpose-- tell friends/neighbors they’re welcome to come fill up as many bags as they want.

Let me assure everyone that I have no intention of violating any regulations concerning wetlands. I won’t go into details but there’s plenty of property that is far enough from the wetlands to make it a viable option.

And there was a plan on how to dispose of manure before moving them home (having it hauled out), so no need for snark. It’s just that now there is reconsideration. And the situation is not an emergency by any stretch of the imagination. The previous person just had a manure pile and managed just fine so we are simply continuing the previous management system. But going forward I want to handle it better, plus the area of the manure pile is where my riding ring will go.

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It’s amazing what actually building a bin will do. We used to just have a big pile, and it’s much tougher to manage. Keeping it in three walls makes it so much easier to contain, and does hide it some.

We didn’t expect the bins to change the view of our property a whole lot, but it’s made a huge difference.

A three bin composting setupwill address your needs pretty well for two horses. My design uses the same round wood posts as my fences, and the same boards as my fence boards, to blend into the landscape. It beats a big open pile or an on site rental dumpster in the eyesore department.

it is 24 feet long, and 6 feet deep, and the same height as the fences. Flooring is 3/4 inch rubber stall mats. each bin is 8 feet wide, same as the fence post spacing. the fronts are slide out boards. Material cost is about $700. A concrete pad instead of mats would be ideal, but more expensive. An area of gravel in front of the bins will minimize tractor tire damage.

Manure never piles up higher than the bin height, and the third bin is composted and ready to about six months. There is plenty of advice available across the internet to help with design and things like ventilation pipes to help speed up the composting if you want to add them.

Obviously composting is extra work vs simply piling manure up for a hauler. And a tractor with a front end loader is essential to turn and move the bin contents.

Boy was I disappointed when I saw Martha’s compost pile! She sure lowered the bar😉!

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Now, now… I’m sure she has plenty of attractively-landscaped acreage in front of that pile.
And lots of staff to maintain it :roll_eyes:

I have had 2 horses on my 5ac for 12yrs, now 3 with mini added 4yrs ago.
I am the World’s Laziest Composter :triumph:
I just pile it up.
Before I sold my riding mower (mowing hired out) I’d fill a dumpcart & haul stall cleanings over to my small - 25’ square - veg garden in the Fall.

Over Winter it composts beautifully.
I do not ever turn the pile except when I am filling the dumpcart or wheelbarrow to spread somewhere.
So hot that the center is ash & it steams when I take off the top layer.

Neighbors take away about 1/2 the pile for their use.

Before my wheelbarrow died, I would clean stalls into it, then dump through the side sliders to either side of my attached indoor. So I had 3 piles.

Now I just pick & dump directly onto a plie right over a fenceline that attaches at a right angle to the barn/indoor.
This pile is hidden from the road as the fence is some 50+’ from the fenceline in front that, in turn, is 100’ from the road.

No noticeable smell from any pile ever.
I bed on pellets & they compost quickly.

I plant directly into the compost in the garden in Spring.
Grows tomatoes like there is no tomorrow!


You made me laugh out loud! Thank you, 2DogsFarm.

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I’d rather only handle poop once. Putting it in a big pile that needs to be addressed later is a waste of my time and energy. It may be a necessary evil with many horses in many stalls, but we get more flexibility with just a few horses.

I have 2 horses on 6.25ac (4.5 dedicated pasture) and love my loafing shed/no stalls setup since there are no shavings to worry about. I dump manure along the far back & side fence lines (farthest away from neighboring homes,) wheelbarrow load next to wheelbarrow load. The row of small piles naturally composts in 6-9ish months in N. Texas - in my 5 years on this propoerty, I’ve never had a big pile to contend with. I dump farthest away in Spring when flies may congregate, and my rows get closer to the barn in winter when there are fewer bugs and more harsh weather to walk through, then by next Spring I can restart at the original spot which will have barely any signs of the original piles. That said, anytime I have an empty horse or dog food bag, I’ll fill it with poop and stick it in the trash bin for pickup, as shipping even 50lbs off the property can only help!

Am I allowed to be jealous of your climate that does this?

A single manure pile will still obviously be a single manure pile, though with less moisture, nine months later at my place. I wish it would just break down and go away.

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I was going to redo my own compost bin using the 3 bin system. An idea I saw on Pinterest (but unfortunately didn’t save) was to incorporate a perforated pvc pipe in the bin to allow airflow to the pile and eliminated the need to turn it. The pipe was positioned vertically in the pile. I would be interested if any other people have used this method and how it worked for them.

I used the same “system” of long, narrow rows of manure when I lived in Michigan with similar results.

3 bin system: don’t even consider it if you aren’t going to get a tractor and an FEL. Along with a spreader you can load. with the size FEL you have.

I’ve got a very sweet little 3 bin set up! its ‘piped’ underneath for aerating each bin for faster composting, but I’ve never paid the electrical to hook up the blower/timer, etc.

based on this system:

I found my tiny spot has no ‘other’ need for a tractor (literally -----) and spreading is something I did think I wanted to do, but my little (brand new) Newer spreader sits because of the difficulty of filling it from the manure bins (an FEL would swamp it even if I had invested in one) . The Newer Spreaders are great if you’re going to clean stalls daily into it and daily drive/spread. Not really suitable for manure bin ‘refills’.

So, for me, ‘for now’ I have a guy down the road who scrapes out my bins about once a year…and hauls it off for a very reasonable fee.

now, when/if THAT arrangement dries up dunno what I’ll do . NO where on this property to dump on the ground. :frowning:

I have 4 horses on full turnout and no tractor. Every few months, my neighbour pops over with his tractor and pushes the pile up high. Every fall, after the ground has frozen, he takes it away to spread on his hayfields. I pay $50 per load. If I had a tractor and spreader, I would do it that way myself. Maybe spread early summer too if you don’t have much room to store it. If you are willing to load it for others, you could also give it away or sell it, letting people know they need to let it sit a year before putting it in their veg gardens, but it can go on their lawns right away.