What Is Exotic Manure: Where To Get Zoo Manure For Garden Use

What Is Exotic Manure: Where To Get Zoo Manure For Garden Use

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By: Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

Gardens and animals have always had a close relationship. Through the centuries, gardeners have known the value that well-composted animal manure adds to the soil and health of plants. That said, the benefits of zoo poo, or exotic manure, is just as far-reaching. So what is exotic manure? Keep reading to learn more about this zoo manure compost.

What is Exotic Manure?

When animals such as oxen or mules were used to till the soil, they would often fertilize it at the same time. Even the use of human waste, as vile as it may seem, was popular for a time. Although human waste is not used today, the manure of such animals as pigs, steer, cows, horses, rabbits, turkeys, chickens, and other poultry are used in a variety of organic gardening practices.

Exotic manure can also be used in the garden where available. Exotic manure is also known as zoo manure compost and consists of the manure from herbivore animals in zoos or rehabilitation centers. It may include elephant, rhinos, giraffes, camels, wildcat, ostrich, or zebra manure.

Zoo Manure Compost

Most types of manure must be aged and completely composted, apart from sheep, in order to be useful in a garden. Fresh manure has a very high nitrogen level and can harm plants and encourage the growth of weeds.

Many zoos and animal facilities that house exotic animals compost excrement to make a nutrient dense, organic soil amendment. The manure is collected and mixed in with hay, straw, or wood shavings during the compost process.

The benefits of zoo poo are numerous. This entirely organic compost helps the soil retain water and nutrients while improving soil texture. Compost helps to break up heavy ground and adds tremendous biodiversity to the soil. Exotic manure can be worked into the soil, used as an attractive top dress or made into a fertilizer tea to feed plants just like any of the more traditional type manures.

Where to Get Zoo Manure

If you happen to live close enough to a zoo or animal rehabilitation center that composts their animal manure, you may be able to purchase fertilizer by the truckload. The money these facilities raise by selling the compost goes back into helping to care for the animals. So, not only will you be doing your garden a great service but you can feel good about helping out the animals and supporting the zoo efforts.

Look for local animal facilities and inquire as to whether or not they sell their composted manure.

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Compost is decomposed organic matter that is primarily used to amend soil. It is environmentally friendly as a recycled product. Minick Materials owns a composting facility that is licensed by the state. This ensures better control and techniques in the decomposition process. Fruits, vegetables, carbon sources, and stockyard manure are just some of the ingredients used in our products. Our compost is aged at temperatures that kill weed seed, pests, and destructive pathogens. The combination of ingredients, timing, and aeration provide a superb organic matter that’s great for topdressing, gardens, landscaping and helping you build a healthier soil for all of your projects.

Five Tips for Using Manure in the Garden

Before you use manure in the garden, be safe! Keep you and your plants free from contamination and sickness. Here’s the scoop on the poop.

1. Never use fresh manure near vegetables, fruit or other edibles.

Manure is a prime source of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. It’s also rich in bacteria. For us home gardeners, applying fresh manure to an edible garden is not the wisest choice. The high probability that it will burn and dehydrate your plants becomes second fiddle to a bigger concern – nasty illnesses caused by pathogens like E. coli and salmonella.

Poop “fresh off the press” should not be worked into the soil during the growing season. You’ve probably seen farmers applying it like there’s no tomorrow and wondered, “if they can do it, why not me?”. Most likely, farms spread it in the fall or use it to condition a field well before planting an edible crop.

At home, don’t take a chance that you’ll eat contaminated food! One university study illustrated it with a simple drop of water. Imagine yourself watering your plants after working fresh manure into the soil. Picture a contaminated water droplet splashing up onto your vegetables. Now you’re playing Russian roulette with your health. Of course, washing your veggies will help.

What is the threat statistically speaking? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an article in 2005 that estimated the total number of E. coli illnesses in the United States annually. Can you guess the number? 5,000? 10,000? How about 73,000! And that is what is reported by medical facilities. There could be hundreds or even thousands more cases that were never treated officially. The same study broke down the causes of the outbreaks, and produce contamination was reported to be on the rise – more than 30% of all E. coli cases. Half of that was from cross contamination in restaurants. The other half was from produce already contaminated with E. coli. Lettuce, cabbage and sprouts are the most common carriers. It can happen at home too. Sadly, I read about a 2 year old boy in Maine who died from E. coli as a result of fresh manure added to the garden improperly.

How does a crop become contaminated? There are several ways your food can get a “touch of the squirts”. Manure can contaminate irrigation and wash water as well as processing and storage equipment. Poor handling and shipping practices can also wreak havoc. The report from the CDC also warned that chlorine washes don’t reliably reduce E. coli counts. Gee. If this hasn’t convinced you not to put the stinky stuff next to your edibles, then I don’t know what will!

2. Are pesticides, antibiotics and medications in the manure?

Pesticides and Herbicides. Fly larvae are a big problem at some farms and so they spray pesticides on manure piles to kill the larvae. Another worry is that grass sprayed with herbicides can survive inside the animal’s body and eventually its manure. Chemicals can stick around in the manure and kill beneficial microbes.

Antibiotics and Medications. Do you know if the cows or horses were treated with drugs? Those drugs don’t kill all bacteria found in animal manure. Medications can also be present in manures.

Now don’t get bummed out that your dreams of doo doo may be crushed. There’s hope for those of us that want all of the benefits of manure without the threat of catching something horrible and even life threatening. Here’s how to make manure work for you.

3. How to age manure. Let it sit around for a while.

Fresh manure has a high level of acidity that can burn plants. Aging it properly not only reduces the inevitable shock factor to your plants but should kill the bad stuff that can make you sick. There are no guarantees. I cannot check your aged manure for pathogens. It is a fact that aging can reduce the risks.

What does it mean to “age manure”? Aged manure is powdery stuff that has been heat dried using temperatures at least 160°F for several hours at a minimum. The water content has been significantly reduced, e.g., 90% and it’s been exposed to air and the elements for at least 6 months (better if a year of more). After undergoing all that heat stress, the manure will remain nutrient-rich and won’t smell. Harmful pathogens should be killed off naturally although some experts contend that disease organisms could remain over time if not composted.

How do I age manure? You can let the manure sit alone in a safe place (away from water runoff or human and pet interaction), or pair it with carbon-rich materials like straw, shredded paper or leaves. The sun’s heat and the manure’s high nitrogen content will “toast” the poop well. Leave it to roast for at least 6 months and make sure it’s no longer stinky or moist.

4. Compost in a pile and go the extra mile.

Fresh manure breaks down well in a compost heap. If you want a good amount of composted manure and don’t have the land for a compost heap, you can purchase aged and composted manure. If you compost it yourself, once the compost is finished, let it cure for 2-4 months before using it in your garden – the longer the better (6 months or more).

Can I add manure to my compost tumbler? Compost experts give the “o.k.” that adding a little bit of manure to your well-balanced compost tumbler will help heat up the material and speed the composting process. But the best method for composting manure is in a outdoor pile. In other words, unless you know your composter or tumbler can turn poop over properly, don’t add more than a cup of it to a small, enclosed space.

What’s the difference between aging and composting? Composting and aging are similar. They both heat up the poop to kill bacteria, reduce density and eliminate stench. Aging can be done without composting. The manure doesn’t need to be mixed with carbon-rich items to age (but most likely is mixed with bedding like straw or other materials used to absorb odors or cover up the muck). Many folks do add straw, leaves or the like to manure to age it and these same combinations work well to compost. Both methods make it easier to handle and apply uniformly.

How to POOP Your Plants

5. Work manure into the soil WAY before harvest.

Early birds don’t catch worms. Apply aged or composted manure to your edible garden 90 days prior to harvest if the produce will not come in contact with the soil. Apply 120 days in advance of planting root crops. Never sprinkle it on top of plants, especially lettuce and other leafy greens.

How do I use it? It’s NOT recommended to apply aged or composted manure near the roots of tender plants, at the beginning of the planting season and especially not to edibles at planting time. Use it as a side dressing? Not so much.

Dilute it, don’t pollute it! Water manure in thoroughly versus throwing it on top of the soil. A more effective way to apply manure, once aged or composted, is to mix it with a good quality compost. Make your own manure tea or buy muslin bags of aged manure developed for manure tea. Manure tea has been shown to aid the growth of vegetables, fruit, flowers and ornamental plants, trees and shrubs. See the next paragraph for more information on how to make manure tea.

Amend and Tend. Many folks soak their bare root roses in a diluted manure tea solution made with aged/composted manure and water. Place some aged or composted tea in a nylon stocking and tie the end. Stick it in a 5 gallon bucket and fill with water. Soak your bare root plant in it for a day. Soaking seeds in a highly diluted manure tea prior to planting has also become popular. There’s an ongoing debate in the gardening world about whether non-aerated compost teas are safe. If the manure compost is considered safe, then compost tea made simply with water and left to sit for several hours to a couple of days should not develop new, harmful bacteria. The topic of aerated vs. non-aerated compost tea brews is too much to tackle in this post. To be safe, keep fruit and veggies up off the ground in soil that has been amended with aged or composted manure.

Keep it clean because it can’t be seen! Non-woven, rubber/vinyl gloves and boots are probably the best defense to preventing sickness from E. coli contamination. But make sure to wash these items thoroughly and clean your hands well after you’re done handling it. Always wash veggies and fruit before serving.

How do the various MANURES stack up?

Once composted or aged, manures lose some of their nitrogen content. Before they are composted, they are considered “HOT”. This means they contain loads of urea nitrogen that can burn plants’ roots. Some manures are hotter than others. This would make a funny cartoon, don’t you think? Knowing the nutrient strength of a particular manure can help you match it to the plants you’re growing. WARNING: Never use human, cat or dog manure or any manure from a meat eater. If your local zoo offers up some lion poop for free, kindly pass. Lions may be kings of the jungle but not the home garden.

The Hottest of the Hot – CHICKEN. Fresh chicken manure packs a powerful nitrogen punch, almost twice that of horse manure. One aged and/or composted, use it sparingly in areas where you’ll be growing crops that flower because loads of nitrogen may produce loads of leaves and you’ll be left wondering why you didn’t get any blooms or fruit. Corn craves nitrogen and is a good match for poultry poo. An average-size hen makes 1 cubic foot of manure every six months. Wow!

The Coldest of the Cold – COW. Cow manure has the least amount of nitrogen but my preferred manure because it’s easy to find and the least likely to burn plants or over fertilize and stunt flower or fruit development.


Rabbit manure is less smelly as other manures. It’s higher in nitrogen than sheep, horse, chicken and cow manure. Its phosphorus content is wonderful and this type of manure suits flowering and fruiting plants.

Horse manure is rich in nitrogen but lacks phosphorus and potassium so it’s not the best choice for flowering plants, tomatoes or peppers. Use it instead on leafy plants, ornamental plants and lawns. But remember that it should be aged or composted for use with edibles. Corn, potatoes, garlic and lettuce would benefit from soil amended properly with well-aged or composted horse manure.

Sheep manure is probably a better manure compared to horse manure because it contains potassium. People comment that it smells less than cow or chicken manure but it takes longer to dry out.

Pig manure is a non-starter. It’s problematic. Although it has loads of nitrogen, it contains awful strains of bacteria and the nitrogen it does have releases so slowly, it’s not worth the risk or trouble.

Do you want to learn how to make your own organic fertilizers from materials you find around the house!

Get our popular 200 page eBook with over 140 images and 50 recipes, you’ll be feeding your soil and your plants same day! No complicated equipment needed. Read more about the eBook here – see the long list of topics covered.

San Antonio Zoo wastes no poo

1 of 29 The San Antonio Zoo gives waste from its grain-eating mammals to New Earth, including gazelles.
Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, courtesy Show More Show Less

2 of 29 Zebras
AFP / Getty Images Show More Show Less

5 of 29 Hippos
JERRY LARA/San Antonio Express-News Show More Show Less

7 of 29 An American Black Bear is photographed by visitors to the San Antonio Zoo as spring break began for thousands of Texas students. Robin Jerstad Show More Show Less

8 of 29 The baby addax nurses a few days after its birth at the zoo. The species is critically endangered. Courtesy photo Show More Show Less

10 of 29 Kemala, the Sumatran tiger that gave birth to two cubs on Aug. 3, with one of her cubs in their new home at the San Antonio Zoo. Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 BOB OWEN/San Antonio Express-News Show More Show Less

Kyeemah, a kangaroo who was hand-raised at the San Antonio Zoo, isn't shy about approaching people.

Sarah Tressler / Express-News Show More Show Less

13 of 29 The San Antonio Zoo, at 3903 N. St. Mary, is open 356 days a year. It opens at 9 a.m., the entrance is closed at 5 p.m. and the grounds close at 6. Admission is $12 for adults $9.50 for children or seniors. Strollers, wagons and wheelchairs can be rented on site. More info: Terry Scott Bertling/San Antonio Express-News Show More Show Less

14 of 29 "Twig" the screech owl sits on the hand of zoo employee Laura Personius as Samantha Litchke (right) watches Friday March 7, 2014 during the opening of Zootennial Plaza at the San Antonio Zoo. The opening of the new area at the zoo marks the San Antonio Zoo's 100th anniversary and features a restaurant, a carousel ride (behind owl), and a centralized family gathering area. JOHN DAVENPORT/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

16 of 29 A lion figure twirls by on the new carousel ride Friday March 7, 2014 during the opening of Zootennial Plaza at the San Antonio Zoo. The new $8 million project marks the zoo's 100th anniversary and features a restaurant and gathering area also. JOHN DAVENPORT/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

17 of 29 Central Catholic and Providence High School's Mighty Button Band leads a parade Friday March 7, 2014 to the new Zootennial Plaza at the San Antonio Zoo. The new $8 million feature includes a restaurant, family gathering place and carousel. JOHN DAVENPORT/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

19 of 29 Central Catholic and Providence High School's Mighty Button Band leads a parade Friday March 7, 2014 to the new Zootennial Plaza at the San Antonio Zoo. The new $8 million feature includes a restaurant, family gathering place and carousel. JOHN DAVENPORT/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

20 of 29 People gather Friday March 7, 2014 at the new Zootennial Plaza for the 100th anniversary of the San Antonio Zoo. One of the features at the new plaza is the Zootennial Restaurant (left). JOHN DAVENPORT/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

22 of 29 People gather Friday March 7, 2014 at the new Zootennial Plaza for the 100th anniversary of the San Antonio Zoo. One of the features at the new plaza is the carousel (behind wall). JOHN DAVENPORT/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

23 of 29 "Twig" the screech owl sits on the hand of zoo employee Laura Personius Friday March 7, 2014 during the opening of Zootennial Plaza at the San Antonio Zoo. The opening of the new area at the zoo marks the San Antonio Zoo's 100th anniversary and features a restaurant, a carousel ride, and a centralized family gathering area. JOHN DAVENPORT/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

25 of 29 Steve McCusker, Executive Director of the San Antonio Zoo, cuts a cake Friday March 7, 2014 at the new restaurant at the new Zootennial Plaza. The new feature at the zoo also has a carousel. JOHN DAVENPORT/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

26 of 29 A whooping crane is one of the unique figures on the the new carousel ride at the new Zootennial Plaza at the San Antonio Zoo. The figure was created from an actual crane at the San Antonio Zoo. The Zootennial Plaza opened Friday March 7, 2014 to mark the zoo's 100th anniversary. JOHN DAVENPORT/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

28 of 29 Blake Barnes,15 months, prepares to ride the new carousel Friday March 7, 2014 at the new Zootennial Plaza at the San Antonio Zoo with her grandmother Cindy Horgan (left). The Zootennial plaza opened to mark the zoo's 100th anniversary. JOHN DAVENPORT/SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

SAN ANTONIO — Much more work is put into zoos than what the public sees. Animals must be fed, cleaned and cleaned up after.

The San Antonio Zoo is no different, but what it does with its animal waste is not only good for business, but also for the environment.

While many zoos may simply throw away their waste, the San Antonio Zoo gives it to New Earth, a composting company with offices in San Antonio and Houston.

According to Bob Waterman, the zoo's horticulture curator, animal waste is an important ingredient in compost.

“They use our organic matter as one of the ingredients in their compost and then sell their compost products wholesale to companies like landscapers,” Waterman said. “They produce compost of different varieties, different types of wood mulch and a variety of soil types.”

Only waste from grain-eating mammals is sent to New Earth. However, waste from carnivores like tigers does not go into the mix as it could contain bacteria which would hamper the compost process.

Some of the compost goes right back into city parks, as New Earth sells to the city.

“They sell compost to the city of San Antonio and the San Antonio Botanic Garden,” Waterman said. “They also sell a bagged product to H-E-B, which in turn sells to the consumer.”

John Kalmbach of New Earth says that the zoo is one of their best customers.

“Normally we charge to bring in waste,” Kalmbach said. “We just allow them to dump it for free, which is on average four to six loads a week.”

Kalmbach said that they also bring in hay with their waste. Everything that the zoo brings goes into a compost called Manure Compost, which New Earth says is good for vegetable gardens. New Earth mixes the waste with a carbon such as sawdust, and composts it for six to eight months. Kalmbach said that New Earth sells their compost back to the zoo at the distributor price instead of at wholesale.

Waterman would also say that what the zoo does with the animal waste benefits all involved.

“It is a win-win situation for everyone,” Waterman said. “We dispose of our organic matter everyday, not having to store it, compost it, etc. New Earth gets to use it, making a quality compost which they sell and make a profit on, selling it to the consumer who improves the quality of the land.”

The zoo and New Earth also enjoy a great relationship.

“The zoo has been a great partner for many years,” Kalmbach said. “We help them out whenever we can.”

Benefits Of Using Zoo Doo For The Environment

Because Zoo Doo is an organic fertilizer, it provides gardeners with a nutrient-rich, synthetic-free option for nourishing their plants.

So, when you choose Zoo Doo over, say, that bag of fertilizer from the big box home improvement store, you’re helping to:

  • Prevent chemicals from getting into the ground and nearby water sources
  • Reduce the amount of waste that winds up in local landfills

Some zoos easily see 1,000 to 2,000 tons of animal waste each year, and often more.

While it can’t all be processed as Zoo Doo (because, again, manure from carnivores and omnivores isn’t normally used), much, if not most, of a zoo’s animal waste can be recycled.

Don’t Waste Your ‘Waste’

Although his Boston apartment has a comfortable modern bathroom, Patrick Keaney usually trudges down two flights of stairs to use a waterless, urine-diverting composting toilet.

Keaney and his housemate, David Staunton, constructed the simple toilet system after learning that most of the nutrients in human excrement — as much as 90 percent of the nitrogen and half of the phosphorus — are in urine alone. The two saw an opportunity to capture free fertilizer and cut their water bill.

Knowing their landlord wouldn’t allow plumbing changes, Keaney and Staunton installed their toilet in the basement next to the warmth of the water heater. The toilet consists of a wooden bench with an opening to which a plastic diverter is affixed (you can also use a trimmed funnel) to drain urine into a 3-gallon pail. Solids (feces, toilet paper and any wood shavings or mulch added) drop to an 18-gallon plastic bin. When the bin fills up, they cap it with a perforated lid, let it season for a year, then shovel its contents into a composter. “We use it to build up the soil around fruit trees and flower beds,” Keaney says. As for the urine, it’s composted with woody material or poured onto well-mulched and well-watered garden beds.

Is using urine this way safe? Most pathogens we excrete are in feces. Urine is almost always pathogen free. Any trace pathogens get deactivated as the urine ages. Some experts say one month of aging is sufficient for a household’s urine used on its own garden, while six months is advised for urine from combined sources. If applying directly to plants, you must dilute it with eight parts water to one part urine to avoid burning plant roots (some sources recommend 20 parts to one).

Zoo Manure Compost - Reap The Benefits Of Zoo Poo In The Garden - garden

Manure Matters
How manures measure up

By Marion Owen, Fearless Weeder for PlanTea, Inc. and
Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul

Marion's UpBeet Gardener
has been
replaced by Marion's blog
which you can find at:
Marion Owen Lagniappe

In the 1960's, when the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) secret gadget-makers invented a listening device for the Asian jungles, they disguised it so the enemy wouldn't be tempted to pick it up and examine it: The device looked like tiger droppings.

The guise worked. Who would touch such a thing? The fist-sized transmitter detected troop movements along the trails in Vietnam.

While most people would find tiger droppings offensive, there are millions of gardeners who look at look at manure as money in the bank. Many zoos, for example, are marketing giraffe even hippopotamus droppings. Can you guess what the best zoo doo is? (You'll find the answer at the end of this article).

In the days when most families kept a milk cow and a flock of chickens, manure was a primary garden fertilizer. But with changes in food production practices and the advent of synthetic fertilizer in the 1930's, many gardeners stopped using manure. Today, organic gardeners have rediscovered the benefits of manure as a fertilizer, soil conditioner and compost ingredient.

Remember the story of the little boy who was digging through the pile of manure? "There has to be a pony in here somewhere," he told his father.

The hopeful lad probably lived on a farm, the best place for home gardeners to get manure. Or any place where domestic animals are raised, for that matter. Just listen for moos and clucking! Farm manure is often sold as bagged manure and is available at garden centers and hardware stores.

Manures and composted plant materials add organic matter, which helps soil retain moisture and structure which prevents compaction, and helps prevent nutrients from leaching away. They also balance extremes in soil pH.

What is good for the goose, is not always good for the gander. There are a few manures that should not be used, primarily those of meat eaters. According to Cornell University, "Homeowners should not use any manure from dogs, cats, or other meat-eating animals, since there is risk of parasites or disease organisms that can be transmitted to humans."

The most common sources of manure are horses, cattle, goats, sheep, rabbits and poultry. Below is a guide showing how manures measure up, nutrient-wise. While all animal manures are good sources of organic matter and nutrients, it's impossible to make a precise analysis, mostly because bedding materials vary so much. For example, manure with straw or sawdust will have a different nitrogen composition than pure manure. But it's useful to know whether the manure you're using is rich or poor in a particular nutrient such as nitrogen.

As you review the list, don't be misled by the N-P-K numbers that suggest manure is less powerful than chemicals. It is actually far better because it contains large amounts of organic matter, so it feeds and builds the soil while it nourishes the plants. This is one of the primary ways that organic fertilizers have a leg-up on chemical ones.

Still, many gardeners can't resist comparing the numerical amounts listed below with what they read on packages of synthetic fertilizers. Unfortunately, the values of manure and organic fertilizers in general, are often based on the relative amount of nitrogen (N), phosphoric acid (P) and potash (K) they contain. While these are important elements, "it is misleading to make a direct comparison between farm manures and chemical fertilizers on the basis of the relative amounts of N-P-K," says Jerry Minnich, author of Rodale's Guide to Composting.

Just like we need to eat to maintain our health, soil needs continual replenishment of its organic matter to decompose into humus. Humus helps create a rich, moisture-retaining soil and makes nutrients available to plants.( For more organic gardening tips, read the current issue of my UpBeet Gardener newsletter.)

How common manures measure up

Manure Chicken Diary cow Horse Steer Rabbit Sheep
N-P-K 1.1 .80 .50 .25 .15 .25 .70 .30 .60 .70 .30 .40 2.4 1.4 .60 .70.30 .90

Note: Nutrient values of manures vary greatly, depending on the diet and
age of the animals, and the nature and quantiy of bedding in the mix.

Chicken manure
Poultry manure (chicken in particular) is the richest animal manure in N-P-K. Chicken manure is considered "hot" and must be composted before adding it to the garden. Otherwise, it will burn any plants it comes in contact with.

Dairy (cow) manure
"Dairy Manure may be the single most useful soil-builder around," says Ann Lovejoy, lifetime organic gardener and writer in Seattle, Washington. "Washed dairy manure from healthy cows is just about perfect for garden use it can be used as a topdressing and for soil improvement," she adds. Dairy manure is preferable to steer manure, which has a higher salt and weed seed content. Though cow manure has low nutrient numbers, that's what makes ist safe to use in unlimited quantities.

Horse manure
Horse manure is about half as rich as chicken manure, but richer in nitrogen than cow manure. And, like chicken droppings, it's considered "hot". Horse manure often contains a lot of weed seeds, which means it's a good idea to compost it using a hot composting method.

Steer manure
Steer manure is one of the old standbys, but it's not the most beloved because it often contains unwanted salts and weed seeds.

Rabbit manure
Rabbit manure is even higher in nitrogen than some poultry manures and it also contains a large amount of phosphorus--important for flower and fruit formation.

Sheep manure
Sheep manure is another "hot" manure. It is somewhat dry and very rich. Manure from sheep fed hay and grain will be more potent than manure from animals that live on pasture.

No matter what kind of manure you use, use it as a soil amendment, not a mulch. In other words, don't put raw manure directly on garden soils. Raw manure generally releases nitrogen compounds and ammonia which can burn plant roots, young plants and interfere with seed germination. In fact, it's recommended that all animal manure should be aged for at least 6 months. Many gardeners spread fresh manure in the fall and turn it in to the top 6 inches of soil a month before spring planting.

A better treatment is to hot-compost manure before applying it to the garden. Hot composting, where the pile reaches at least 150 degrees F) helps to reduce the probability of passing dangerous pathogens on to people who handle the manure or eat food grown with manure compost. (For more information about compost, read my Compost Happens! article.)

While the chance of contamination is slim, severe sickness and even death may occur if contaminated produce is eaten. To be safe, either compost your manure or apply it in the fall after harvest. Wash up after handling manure and don't forget to rinse the vegetables and fruit well before you eat them--always a good idea whether your use manure or not.

Watch the video: Caledonia company turns Zoo Doo into environmentally friendly compost


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