Advanced Manure Management: Putting Planning Into Action

Five wheelbarrows on their side.
Get ready to muck through these advanced topics with us!

So you have a basic understanding of the options a sanctuary has to manage manure and are ready for more details on the specifics! Managing manure at your sanctuary can be a daunting task, but if handled properly, it can reduce disease, water pollution, parasite and fly populations, and odor issues. This helps ensure happy residents, staff, and neighbors! This resource provides more detailed information on setting up  manure storage areas, managing runoff, and tips for limiting infestations and odors, among other information. 

Manure Storage Considerations

Manure Storage Area Size

  • Your storage are should be large enough to hold all manure and used bedding until it can be utilized or hauled away.
  • Depending on the climate in your area, you may need to prepare for long-term winter storage (180 or more days). Think very carefully about all variables that might lead to capacity needs!
  • If you have rainy seasons, you may also need to store manure longer and pay closer attention to managing runoff. This will likely also affect the storage area location.
  • Make the storage area larger than you expect. You’ll likely never regret a slightly larger than seemingly necessary manure storage area!
  • Manure piles shouldn’t be higher than 8-10ft to prevent fires from excessive heat being generated by the compost process within the pile.

Manure Storage Area Location

  • Storage areas should ideally be located near the source of the manure.
  • Storage facilities should be at least 100 feet from any wetlands, ponds or streams, wells, and potable water sources, 200 feet from any residences, and 50 feet from the sanctuary’s property line.
  • Manure should not be stored in any areas where residents are living, as it can expose them to parasites.
  • Storage piles should be placed away from buildings because it can damage walls.
  • Do not build a storage facility in a floodplain.
  • Locate storage areas on higher ground and set them away from any runoff or drainage areas.
  • Choose a location that is level or slightly sloped (a 2-4% grade will allow for drainage.)
  • Consider winds in the area and place storage facilities downwind from resident living spaces and from your neighbors’ residences.
  • When choosing a location, don’t forget to consider the accessibility of wheelbarrows, tractors, or other equipment you intend to use for hauling waste.

Manure Storage Area Structure

  • The majority of microsanctuaries or small resident population sanctuaries may be able to store manure in a pile that is contained in a small shed or on a pad.
  • A wooden or mason wall (referred to as a “bucking wall”) set behind the pile is helpful during loading and unloading and provides a visual block from the manure pile.
  • A back-fill of soil can strengthen the wall.
  • If your sanctuary requires a larger storage area, reinforced concrete can be used behind the wall.
  • A structure with three “bucking walls” can help ease manure handling and can contain both the manure and drainage more effectively.
  • If your sanctuary consists of a larger size or number of residents, then a three or four-sided structure with a wide opening and and high roof will better suit your needs.
  • Wooden and concrete storage sheds are a possible option.
  • If constructing the storage facility, it is important to use rot-resistant wood and reinforced concrete, and steel fastenings as they will reduce any corrosion problems.
  • If looking for inspiration, you can contact your local Extension Service and ask for suitable designs!

Manure Storage Area Flooring

  • If you only have a small number of residents, particularly if the resident population comprises goats, sheep, llamas, or pigs, compacted earth or stone dust is an adequate flooring.
  • If you have a larger resident population, or horses and/or donkeys, then packed gravel, crushed limestone, or road base material is recommended. 
  • To create a watertight flooring, the base should be laid on hard-packed or compacted soil. You can also use an impermeable liner.
  • You can construct a more substantial flooring using 4-inch thick concrete over 6 inches of coarse gravel or crushed rock. Concrete may also be placed over compacted soil or 2 inches of sand.
  • Concrete provides a more solid surface for easy removal of manure with power equipment and prevents nitrogen build-up in underlying soil.
  • The floor can be slightly sloped to one or both sides to allow leachate to be diverted to a vegetated filter.
  • If suitable terrain is available, a below-grade structure works well to contain the manure. 
    • Slope the entrance ramp upward to keep surface water from entering.
    • Gravity helps in dumping the waste, the pile is out of view, and it can be easily covered.
    • Make one side of the structure at ground level for dumping and removal.

Manure Storage Area Ramps

  • A rough-surfaced ramp should be designed to lead into the storage area.
  • Be sure to make it wide enough for any vehicles and equipment you may choose to employ.
  • Carts or wheel-barrows can be accommodated without a ramp, though a ramp makes the path more stable, less prone to mud, and makes dumping easier.
  • Consider the space necessary to maneuver in and out when unloading or loading.
  • If concrete or crushed rock is used for ramping, install angle grooves across the ramp to help drain rainwater.

Manure Storage Area Cover

  • It is essential to cover the storage area to prevent runoff from the pile, which can lead to water contamination. 
  • Tarp: Depending on the size of the storage area, a watertight plastic tarp can be sufficient. 
  • Roofing: A permanent roof can be built to protect larger manure structures. A permanent roof makes access to the pile easier, as it does not need to be removed every time material is dumped and it isn’t susceptible to wind or the elements like a tarp. 
  • The height necessary for dumping and removing manure with power equipment, if applicable, must be taken into consideration. 
  • Install gutters to catch water flowing off the roof. If the manure storage area is to be left uncovered, it may be necessary to install channels, floor drains, and/ or drainage pipes to divert and capture run-off to a liquid storage tank, holding pond, or treatment system.

Bedding and Manure

Manure takes up plenty of space, but if you add soiled bedding to your waste pile, there will be a significant increase in the waste you’ll need to store.

  • Be sure you aren’t offering more bedding than necessary. Use enough bedding to adequately soak up urine.
  • When cleaning, remove only manure and soiled bedding, leaving clean bedding.
  • Straw typically results in more waste than pine shavings and sawdust, but this may not be the most appropriate bedding, depending on the species and individuals.
  • For certain species and individuals, providing rubber mats under bedding can provide comfort while reducing the need for as much bedding, though you will need to ensure these mats are periodically given good cleaning.
  • Newspaper and wood pellet bedding absorb liquids more than wood shavings.
  • Newspaper and wood pellets also compost better than wood shavings.

The Equipment Of Manure Management

For many small sanctuaries, the equipment used for manure removal include the following:

  • Pitchforks or manure forks
  • Shovels
  • Metal rakes (for sanctuaries with many sheep, llamas, alpacas, or goats, a rake with close tines is recommended)
  • Wheelbarrows or handcarts
  • Brooms and dustpans can be helpful for for collecting manure off hard-packed surfaces.
  • Lawn or garden tractors can be equipped with a tractor-mounted bucket for unloading and loading manure.
  • Larger tractors are typically equipped with a tractor-mounted manure loader, scraper, or frontend loader.
  • A pickup truck can also be quite valuable to have on hand.

Managing Manure Storage Area Runoff 

An important aspect of manure management at your sanctuary is preventing the pollution of ground and surface waters, and limiting places for fly and mosquito breeding. In order to meet these goals, runoff must be properly managed. While much of the waste inside your residents’ indoor living spaces will be mostly dry, manure left in outdoor spaces (such as paddocks and pastures), can contribute to unwanted runoff or “leachate” issues.

  • Inside living spaces should have adequate bedding to soak up urine.
  • Tipped water buckets, leaky waterers, and water from cleaning can contribute to manure moisture, which is less than ideal.
  • In order to prevent runoff, a vegetated (grassy) filter/buffer (at least 3-4 inches in height) should surround the manure storage area to prevent runoff from seeping into waterways.
  • The vegetated filter acts as a drainage field for a sanctuary wastewater treatment system. 
  • Trenches can be used to capture or divert manure pile runoff. 
  • If you have a larger manure storage area, install piping around the pile that can capture the waste water and divert to the filter area.
  • Divert surface drainage water and roof runoff away from the pile area.
  • Grading the area to divert surface runoff reduces soil erosion around the area. 
  • You may require professional assistance in determining fliter size or design and other aspects of runoff management. For assistance, contact your local Extension Service.

The idea is to prevent pollution of waterways and keep the property clean and as mud-free as possible. You can reduce the mud on sanctuary property and manage runoff from manure sites by taking the following actions:

  • Grade any surface areas in order to improve drainage. 
  • Divert runoff around pastures and into filter areas using tile drains, ditches, channels, dikes or curbs.
  • Buildings should have a gutter and a downspout system that will collect and divert water from the building and away from any manure storage areas.
  • Downspout systems can be emptied into rain barrels, ditches, dry wells, or other clean water outlets. (Any open ditches near where residents are living should be closed, using a buried pipe to carry water through.)
  • Fill low spots where water gathers with gravel or fill.

Vegetated Filter Strips

A grass buffer or “vegetated filter strip” is a protected area with grass and/or brush that is located next to storage piles, streams and wetlands, and other sensitive areas.

In particular, riparian vegetation are plants that grow in wet areas next to streams and provide food and resources for wildlife. Both of these vegetations slow rain runoff and increase soil infiltration, while filtering microorganisms, nitrogen, phosphorus, and organic matter from small amounts of runoff that sometimes contain manure.

  • The size of a filter strip depends on the size and slope of the area draining toward the strip. The suggested sizes are:
    •  25-50 feet for 0-3% slopes.
    •  50-100 feet for 3-8% slopes.
    •  More than 100 feet for steeper slopes.
  • To be most effective, a vegetative filter area needs to be well established before being utilized.
  • A vegetated earthen berm or diversion ditch increases the filtering effectiveness of the strip.
  • Residents should be kept off filter areas, while tractor and vehicles should be only given limited access.
  • Strips should not be mowed too short.

Seasonal Care Considerations

Allowing residents to graze on frozen pastures doesn’t generally cause damage to pastures. However, allowing them to graze on wet and muddy pastures can result in erosion, soil compaction, possible permanent damage to pasture sod, and manure runoff. Moving residents to a paddock area during rainy periods can help prevent this.

 

  • Composting will help reduce, but not eliminate, the odors of manure.
  • Strong odors occur when compost piles are turned, especially if they have fresh materials.
      • Try to turn the pile during cooler weather, when there is little wind.
      • If you have neighbors, consider turning your compost pile in the middle of weekdays when they are less likely to be home.
  • Cover the composting materials with a 4-inch layer of wood chips and/or peat moss to help contain odors. 
  • Attach a tarp several inches above the pile, strung from poles or another solid structure.
  • Planting shrubs and trees around the pile can help contain odors and provide a visual screen.
  • Any containers should be properly covered to prevent rain from entering and to reduce odors.
  • If you have chosen to spread manure over a pasture, do so on days where there is no wind.
  • Try to avoid spreading on holidays or weekends when neighbors may be home.
  • Spread manure when it is cooler in the day.

Limiting Infestations

While flies and parasites are an integral part of an ecosystem, a sanctuary can quickly become overrun with these species, causing comfort and health issues for residents. To reduce fly populations:

  • Be sure to remove soiled bedding and manure regularly from resident living and activity spaces.
  • Ensure your property has proper drainage, as muddy areas encourage fly breeding.
  • Ensure that any manure that is spread onto pastures is properly broken up to discourage parasite population growth.
  • Spread manure thinly, avoiding large clumps that will attract flies.
  • Do not store manure in stalls or paddocks.
  • Keep residents off of newly spread pastures, ideally composting to limit parasite infestations.
  • Compost must reach at least 131 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celsius) for 15 days to kill pathogens and parasites.
Handle With Care!

Manure must be carefully handled in order to prevent exposure to potential bacteria and protozoans, such as E. coli and Giardia. Be sure to was your hands before touching any food or you eyes and face. Dust masks and respirators should be worn by any staff or volunteers that are sensitive to mold and dust.

Now that we have covered both foundational and advanced topics in manure management, you may be ready to learn the ins and outs of composting!

SOURCES:

Manure Management For Small And Hobby Farms | Northwest Recycling Council (Non-Compassionate Source)

Non-Compassionate Source?

If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

Updated on August 4, 2020

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