It really helps me to gauge what I’m not talking about but should. I’m probably not always as clear as I’d like to be, sometimes I’m not sure what you’re interested in, and sometimes it might just be too dirty to bring up myself.
For instance, I was recently asked how we manage the considerable volume of manure we accumulate around here. With 25-100 birds (depending on the time of the year), 2 hogs, and 2 (soon to be 3) cows, it can sure pile up on 2 1/2 acres! I can’t believe it never occurred to me you might be interested in how we take care of it.
I am having trouble keeping on top of the manure situation. I have been doing loads of reading on the net to find solutions on a small holding with no tractor or machinery. We do have chickens and love the idea of sending them in after the cow has been moved to scratch up the cow pats, but the practicality of this seem overwhelming. I am living on 20 acres, part bush , part pasture in australia in quite a dry part of the world. I would love to know how you deal with this issue at your place.
The short answer is: Poorly.
Thankfully, we don’t live in a dry area, although we are in the middle of the first drought I can remember for ages. I suppose I take for granted how well the rain does all the manure management for us.
What the rain doesn’t disperse, the chickens do.
The theory behind the practice is that the cows will do their business. The odor will attract flies which lay their eggs in the manure and the chickens will come behind in a few days, discover the larvae, and eat it, scratching through to make sure they get it all. The pile is scattered and the rest breaks down quickly.
That may work for some, but practicality aside, I’ve never seen a maggot in a single cow pie. And neither have my chickens.
What they do see is undigested grain. Yes, we feed our cow a little bit of grain. I know that’s quickly becoming taboo. Everyone is looking for grass-fed dairy, but we have to consider the stewardship of our animal and try as we might, we cannot get Maybelle to supply us with excess milk above her calf’s needs and still maintain a decent body condition. Perhaps that’s because Dexter’s aren’t bred for that purpose, perhaps we don’t know what we’re doing. So she gets a scoop of grain at milking time much to the delight of the chicken’s. More often than not she hasn’t even finished going before they’re running up to scatter the piles in search of goodies.
What the chickens leave behind in the pasture is of little concern to us. It breaks down very quickly. At least quickly enough for us not to worry about how to take care of it. When they get out of the pasture and start wandering the yard it’s a totally different story. Somehow the laws of time and nature become suspended and it takes an excruciatingly long time for those little splats to disappear which of course increases the likelihood that a very small shoe will step in it and walk it straight into the house and start jumping on my bed. Now you know why I’ve become anal (pun intended 😀 ) about keeping them in the pasture this summer.
Which brings us to the pigs.
Pigs are easy for us. Instead of penning them up and creating issues of filth and accumulation, we’ve sacrificed another area of the pasture- along the back, underneath the shade of the trees- and we rotate them through there. I don’t delude myself into labeling them pastured pork in the end because it doesn’t take them very long to turn the pasture area into nothing more than an open air pen. But with an open air pen comes the benefits of rain washing away the manure and blowing the odor away on the breeze. We’ve never noticed a problem with odor until the last 4-6 weeks when they’re large and it’s hot outside. I don’t know how that will change now that they’ll be finishing up in the winter months. Anyway, a few weeks after slaughter there is little (fecal) evidence they were even there. When it rains heavily, it will puddle in a wallow and take on a funny rusty color.
So that’s how we deal with the wonderful messes our animals give back to us which bless us by fertilizing the pasture and making compost for the gardens.
Sadly, I wasn’t really able to address the true issue in the question which is how can this be done without the aid of the chickens or in dry regions. If you had any advice to share I know she, and perhaps others, would really appreciate benefiting from your wisdom.