The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

What to do with weedy manure

Grazing goatsWhat's the best use for seedy manure? As I drooled over the combination of straw, dropped weedy hay, and goat manure and urine in our goat coop, these are the options I came up with:

  • Try to get a compost pile hot enough to kill all of the seeds in the goats' dropped hay. Pro: Much-needed compost for the vegetable garden. Con: Loss of a lot of nitrogen due to the contents sitting out in our rainy climate, plus a relatively long wait and quite a bit of pile-turning. And, to be honest, I don't really believe I'd kill all the seeds despite all the effort.
  • Turn in the chickens and hope they scratch through and eat up all the seeds. Pro: Maybe the compost would be weed-free enough for the garden afterwards, and the chickens would enjoy the adventure. Con: I'd either have to move all of the bedding from the goat coop to the chicken coop (at opposite ends of our core homestead), or I'd have to move the chickens to the bedding and hope our birds get along well with the goats. And, once again, I don't really believe the result would be weed-free.
  • Mangel definitionPut the weedy compost under a kill mulch. Pro: A very easy solution, and I do want to kill mulch a few new areas this spring. Con: I won't be getting compost where it's needed most --- in the main garden.
  • Deposit the kill mulch as a thin layer in the tree alleys, then use chickens to scratch up any sprouting seeds so I can plant goat-fodder crops there in the summer. Pros: This solution is even easier than the last since the bedding would be used close to the source, and I wouldn't even need masses of cardboard to cover everything over. Con: The chickens might not kill all the weed seeds, meaning that the area would stay unplantable (but would get some much-needed nutrition).

At the moment, I'm leaning toward the last option, especially since the whole point of my new kill mulches this spring was going to be to make some spots for the mangels and field corn I want to plant for next winter's goat feed. But I'm open to suggestions. What would you do with a mixture of straw, dropped hay, and goat urine and manure? I feel so rich having another source of organic matter to deposit into our farm's ecosystem!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Comment by TERRY Mon Jan 26 09:47:43 2015
My goat's manure is not so seedy. I think they digest things so well that most seeds are just that, digested. But I should note that I don't feed them any kind of seedy hay in their pen/yard. They eat outside, and digest and deposit in the pen. That way the manure is just straw or rice hull bedding, goat "berries" and urine.
Comment by Eric in Japan Mon Jan 26 19:31:47 2015
Eric --- That would be one good solution --- to feed all of the hay in the yard. But our girls are so picky they won't eat anything off the ground, and it's so wet here that I'd think their hay would get soaked out there. So I feed them in the coop, and then they drop a third of the hay and its seeds into their bedding.... :-/
Comment by anna Mon Jan 26 19:51:11 2015
Not sure how manageable your volume is, but you could do some kind of solar sterilization and then compost it or let the chickens have a go at it.
Comment by Jake Tue Jan 27 01:29:13 2015
It's very hard to deal with goat bedding & manure. I've made plenty of extra work for myself putting it on my garden before! I left it in a pile ,under a black tarp , under the direct sun for over a year one time... put on my garden... still had weed seeds! Tried using chickens one year to clean it up ...still had weed seeds! I think I'm getting rid of my goats but I'm going to have a barn full of wasted hay and manure this spring...I may spread it on a pasture around one of our ponds that geese can graze on..they like weeds!
Comment by angie Tue Jan 27 07:10:47 2015
After reading this blog for so many years, I know Mark could cobble together a feeding station with two sheets of plywood, and a posts cut from the woods, some spare lengths of wire, and a few flattened out soup cans, McGyver style. That way it would keep rain off the feed and concentrate it in one place...
Comment by Eric in Japan Fri Jan 30 11:29:04 2015

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