INSTRUCTIONS- Make a big pile of manure, wait 2-3 yrs. and presto you have compost! Since most of us would like to expedite the process a bit, here are some ways to move things along a little faster. Basically, what you want to ensure is that you get the temperature of the pile up so that bacteria, parasites, and weed seeds and spores are killed off. This can be achieved simply by tarping the pile and establishing adequate airflow. The best way to do this is by turning the pile as often as possible, weekly is good, daily is optimal. This is the point where most people come to a complete HALT! Never fear there is a second best way to get this job done- perforated PVC pipes can be inserted into the pile. A good pile size is 8'x 8'x 5', this is large enough to maintain a hot enough temperature to "cook" everything, but small enough to manage well. In this size pile insert 2-4 pipe "air-shafts". Tarping, also, helps to regulate the moisture content of the pile. It should feel like a wrung out sponge. Too wet or too dry slows the process down and can result in a less than desirable end product. You can always spray it down ( I dump my water buckets on it) or air dry it on a sunny day, if needed.
2. Cost- as with most things, you can go for the deluxe model or the economy plan. The idea of the bins is to keep everything corralled. How you configure that is up to you and your needs. Something else to ponder is the base- it is advisable to set this up on a concrete pad if you will be using a tractor or other heavy equipment to move things around, as is the case in larger facilities. For smaller shovel and wheelbarrow operations it may not be necessary.
3. Timeline- it is best to have at least 3 "stations". One for loading the fresh stuff in, one for cooking, and the last one for pulling the final product out of. When you clean out the last bin, that then becomes your loading bin and the previous loading bin becomes your current cook bin etc... and you continue with the rotation. The whole process can take from 3-6 months.
A few "adders" I have found from my own experience are grass clippings, fall leaves, and kitchen scraps. This is a great way to manage those waste products as well. I will occasionally throw some agricultural lime on the pile too. All of these create a richer more balanced compost.
Now, you can use the finished product to fertilize your pastures, or as a soil enhancer for your gardens and potted plants. If you have too much- put up a For Sale sign. Gardeners and landscapers call it Black Gold for a reason. You may not make enough to pay your feed bill but you will have gotten it off of your property and decreased the "fly breeding zone" a win-win in my book!
Now, for those of you who just can't squeeze the time or energy out of your schedule, there are some options. Two businesses with the large composter in mind, that have equipment and/or systems available are www.sunstateorganics.com and www.o2compst.com. Check with your local municipality or tax pro to see if you may be eligible for a tax break. Kentucky offers a credit equal to 50% of the cost of composting equipment. And for those of you who don't want to deal with any of it, I've got you covered. There are companies that will come take it all away for a fee and do the composting for you. Check out www.compostingcouncil.org to see who is in your area. One such business in the Charlotte, NC vicinity is www.palmettosupreme.com. I talked to Dan there and he explained their whole process to me- pretty cool (at least to a Green Geek like me)!
For more info you can check out www.piercecountycd.org. It is a pretty informative sight.
Well that is a rather long-winded way of saying "ITS EASY" and oh so beneficial for the environment.
Have a Smart Day!!