Tag Archives: manure compost

The BiG Stink: The Scoop on Poop, Part 1

By Faith Miller
Operations Manager at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Here at the Boot we accept a wide variety of undesirables. Rotten apples, moldy bread, pumpkins way past their prime and all manner of unidentifiable and rancid brown blobs make their way into our buckets. And we’re thrilled to have them! It’s amazing to watch Mother Nature turn foul ingredients into gorgeous, odor-free black gold. While we’re open to collect just about anything that can go into your mouth, Bootstrap is less keen on what comes out the other end. You know what I’m talking about- numero dos, feces, dung, night soil (that’s a term, I swear).


Bootstrap’s resident pooper scoopees: Cooper and Kooskia

So why isn’t Bootstrap on the turd train? After all, human waste and animal manure have been used as fertilizer for millennia, so what gives? Well, poop is complicated. Composting food is a straightforward process: throw in some scraps and a dry carbon source, keep the pile damp, turn it now and then and voila, you’ll have compost. Composting excrement is a much more delicate subject. When handling waste, one has to be mindful of bacteria, pathogens and heavy metals. These factors vary depending on the kind of waste: cats, dogs, gerbils, birds, people, ponies. Each type seems to have its own composting quirks.

Let’s start with rodents because they get a thumbs up for composting. Bootstrap accepts the waste and bedding from rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and any other rodent friends. Since pet rodents are herbivores, there is less concern about pathogens infecting compost or plants. In addition, one can safely compost manure from chickens, horses, cows, and other herbivorous animals (even elephants!).

Unlike rodents, cat poop is a big no for composting. Felines can transmit a parasite through their feces that causes toxoplasmosis. An estimated 22% of the US population is thought to have toxoplasmosis and most recover without treatment. However, infected pregnant women can pass the infection to the fetus resulting in eye and nervous system deformities. For the sake of the children, please don’t let the cat poop out of the bag.

So what about Fido? Dogs fall into the yes-and-no category for composting. Because dog waste can be packed with parasites such as roundworms, it is recommended that finished compost be used on lawns and ornamental plants instead of the vegetable patch if you’re a home composter. In fact, there seems to be a niche market for doggy do composters.

Bird droppings get a maybe for composting. In fact, I had trouble finding any definitive answers for avian waste. Chickens seem to pass the test, but concerns were raised over transmission of Salmonella, E. coli, and parasites when I checked out parrots and pigeons. There also was apprehension about seeds in droppings surviving the composting process to become weeds. Composting of fowl scat might be strictly for the birds until I find a good answer.

I covered just about every animal on the ark. Now it’s time for the most contentious pooper of all: humans. Psych. That’s a tricky topic and you’ll have to wait until next time for the low-down on humanure. Keep your eyes peeled for post number two (zing!).


Compost Round Up: “Manure happens”

Although different than what we do, another common composting source is that of composting animal manure. What’s composting manure all about?

Here are 10 facts about composting manure:

1. Manure from animals such as horses, goats, chickens and cows can be composted.

2. Manure should not be viewed as waste, rather an alternative to fertilizers and thus an economic resource.

3. Few weed seeds remain viable in properly composted manure, which can reduce the amount of herbicide or tillage needed for weed control.

4. Composting reduces the volume and density of manure 50-65 percent.

5. Manure compost can supply slow-release micro-nutrients for crop production, improve soil structure and promote growth of earthworms.

6. Pile temperatures should exceed 131 degrees F for 15 days and be turned a minimum of 5 times to kill pathogens. Carbon/nitrogen ratios should be about 30/1, moisture content at 50% and oxygen needs to be incorporated through routine turning.

7. The site of the pile needs to be in an area not prone to groundwater contamination through leaching or where leachate can run off into surface water.

8. After heating cycles have subsided, manure compost should cure properly. Applying immature compost can cause insect swarms, nitrogen immobilization, malodors or phytotoxicity (plant injury).

9. Understanding how to manage manure is vital! Applying too little can result in low yields and nutrient deficiency. Applying too much could mean a phosphorous runoff, nitrate leaching, and excessive vegetative growth.

10. Play it safe and get your compost tested for nutrient levels!

In conclusion, composting food scraps and animal manure are similar in their ability to reuse waste, create healthy outcomes for crop production, and save money. Composting manure, however, needs to monitored in order to prevent water contamination, exposure to pathogens and pollution. Both methods have their pro’s and con’s and it’s important to explore the best fit for you! Learn more below: