Manure Manager

Features Applications Poultry
Editorial: Compost dig in

September 4, 2008  by  Marg Land

Compost – what a great topic to really bury yourself in – well, not literally.
Compost – what a great topic to really bury yourself in – well, not literally.

A somewhat misunderstood process, composting consists of more than stockpiling piles of manure out behind the barn. Instead, it is the controlled biological decomposition of organic matter – such as animal manure – into a stable, humus-like product.

Composting can have numerous benefits for livestock production, including reductions of between 50 and 75 percent for dry matter, volume reductions as high as 85 percent, reductions in odor, flies, pathogens and weed seeds, plus a safe and effective way to deal with the issue of deadstock.

Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to view a poultry litter composting facility as part of the Growing the Margins energy conference, held in London, Ont., Canada. Cold Spring Farms, a division of Maple Leaf Foods, is an integrated turkey production and processing facility located near Thamesford, Ont. As a by-product of the company’s turkey production, the facility produces 8,000 tons of composted litter, comprised of wood shavings and straw, using an in-vessel composting system.


After barn cleanout, litter at Cold Spring Farms is either directed toward composting or sold as fresh manure to cash crop producers. Litter for composting is brought to a central facility where water is added to bring the moisture level up to 55 percent. The litter is then pushed into the composting facility and directed into one of three compost channels. A large compost turner that rides on rails is used to process each of the channels and a crane system is used to transport the turner from one channel to the next.

Litter is retained in the composting facility for three to four weeks and is turned daily. Probes are used to monitor the temperatures in each of the channels. According to the facility manager, temperatures between 131 and 140˚F are required in order to kill any pathogens or weed seeds within the litter.

Once the composting process is completed, the litter is conveyed out of the composting facility and stored in windrows for curing. The windrows are turned every two weeks in the beginning, shifting to once every month by the end of the four-month curing period.

About 95 percent of the resulting compost is sold in bulk to high value horticulture producers, ginseng farmers, golf courses, landscapers and some home gardeners.

Readers will have an opportunity to learn more about composting – in relation to manure management – in this issue of Manure Manager with the help of Mike Bronkema , a Holland, Michigan poultry producer, and Robert Foster of Foster Brothers Dairy in Vermont. They’ll even learn how composting wasn’t the solution for handling litter issues at MOARK’s egg production facilities in southwest Missouri.

Don’t forget to read about the latest compost equipment offering in the Innovations section.

The next issue of Manure Manager will feature the latest in manure management relating to dairy operations plus recent innovations in skidsteers/loaders. Information and news from the 2008 Great Lakes Manure Handling Expo will also be featured.


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