Compost

Benefits of compost are many and for dairy farmers

(who should perhaps be called not dairy farmers but manure managers!)

composting is a great option to handle all the valuable Black Gold the cows give back to us!

Our compost pile is:

  • A combination of dairy cow, chicken, & sheep manure with straw and wood shavings
  • Near the barn, within reasonable wheel-barrow-pushing-distance
  • Near the chickens – their favorite literal “hot spot” in winter (chicken spa?)
  • Turned often by the tractor, to reintroduce air to the center for baking
  • Watered occasionally to help keep enough moisture in the mix to activate microbes to work
  • Our compost takes about a year to become mulch and two years to be fully consumed and broke down into small particle soil matter (this timing can be greatly changed one way or another depending on climate and management factors)

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Notice the STEAM coming up out of the pile?

An active compost pile should register 135 – 160 degrees F on a thermometer! 

( http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/fundamentals/needs_temperature.htm )

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We improved the breakdown of material by using a forklift attachment to spear into the pile and lift up, aerating the pile. More air plus some more water made all the difference!

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Bagged and ready to use!

 

An Alternate use of compost:

DIY Methane Heat!

Have you ever wondered what you would do with all that cow manure? Many of us have gardens and areas where we can constantly use more nutrients and compost. But for those with excess manure, there is another option out there!

Last October (2010), the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture offered a class called: All About Biogas: Renewable Energy Workshop for Beginners.

Biogas is a  process whereby the methane in manure is collected through a composting process. This gas can be used like other gases for fuel purposes, such as to heat your home or warm your food!

If you can reuse that methane from the cow in another heat process before the methane is sent off into the atmosphere, then you can help reduce pollution in the air!

RESOURCES:

http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/farm_energy/biomass.html

http://www.small-farm-permaculture-and-sustainable-living.com/methane_generator.html

http://www.completebiogas.com/

Reader Question (from Bekah): “Do you use biogas on your farm? I am hoping to at some point.”

Our answer: No, we need every drop of manure for compost to fertilize our gardens and fields, so we do not have enough for extras. I posted this information because some people are interested in it, and I’ve heard some people have successfully used home-made models! Our compost pile stays toasty warm during the winter, so we use that “energy” by letting the chickens scratch around in it all winter. It’s near their coop and so when they’re outside on wintery days, the compost pile is a nice warm place to let them be chickens and scratch around for goodies!

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