How to Prepare Horse Manure for Compost

Written by crystal bench
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How to Prepare Horse Manure for Compost
Horse manure is easily composted. (horse image by Antonio Fernandez from

Horse manure has the necessary ratio of carbon to nitrogen for composting, which is 25:1 to 30:1, according to Jessica Page of the Washington State University Cooperative Extension. This makes horse manure easy to prepare for compost, as you will not need to add other materials. If you keep horses, or know someone who does, horse manure is plentiful and cheap, if not free. Use the composted horse manure to feed your vegetable garden and other plants.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Horse manure
  • Tractor
  • 9 PVC pipes, 5 feet long
  • Drill
  • ½ inch drill bit
  • Tarp
  • Long-stemmed composting thermometer

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  1. 1

    Chose a level place to make your pile. If you will be using a tractor to prepare your pile, make sure there is room for the tractor to manoeuvre.

  2. 2

    Make a pile of horse manure that is 5 to 7 feet square and 3 to 4 feet tall.

  3. 3

    Turn the pile of manure with the tractor about once a week to maintain a good quantity of air in the pile. You may need to turn your pile more or less frequently, depending on the manure and weather conditions. Turn more often if you smell ammonia near your pile---this is a sign that there is not enough oxygen in the material.

  4. 4

    Drill ½ inch holes in PVC pipes every 6 inches, up to the height of your pile. Insert the pipes into the horse manure pile in a 3x3 square pattern to aerate, if you do not have a tractor.

  5. 5

    Check the water content of the manure by taking a handful from the inside of the pile and squeezing it in your hand. The manure should stay in a clump and leave your hand damp. If squeezing the manure makes water drip out, your pile is too wet and you will need to turn the pile more often. Increase the frequency of turning to twice a week until the manure passes the squeeze test.

    If the manure is dry and falls apart in your hand, you will need to add water and reduce the frequency of turning. Add water by dampening the pile with a garden hose when you turn the pile, or once a week if you are using the pipe aeration method.

  6. 6

    Check the temperature of your horse manure pile by inserting a long-stemmed composting thermometer into the centre of the pile. A composting horse manure pile will begin at a temperature range of 10 to 43.3 degrees Celsius, depending on the ambient temperature, and increase to temperatures between 43.3 to 71.1 degrees Celsius over a few weeks. The horse manure needs a week at temperatures between 57.2 and 65.6 degrees Celsius to compost properly. Temperatures over 71.1 degrees Celsius will kill the helpful bacteria. If your horse manure pile is reaching temperatures above 71.1 degrees C, remove some of the manure to make your pile smaller.

Tips and warnings

  • Protect your horse manure pile during the rainy season by covering it with a tarp.
  • Cover strong-smelling piles with a layer of soil to cut down on the aroma.
  • Wear a dust mask if you are sensitive to dust.

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