Testing Manure

sbryce_gwMay 23, 2009

I found a horse trail near my home in an area where I like to go walking. So today I grabbed a plastic bag and went for a walk. I now have some sun-dried horse manure that I hope to feed to my worms. But I have no way of knowing if the generous contributor to my vermiculture efforts has been recently de-wormed.

I plan to put the manure in a bucket of some sort, add some water to re-hydrate the manure then toss in a few worms to see if they survive.

How long should the worms survive in the manure before I declare it edible?

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beth_monsterworms(9 SF East Bay)

Hi, You need to let the manure age a little first before you feed it to your worms. Otherwise, when it is decomposing, it will heat up and kill your worms. Do you have someplace where you can water it a little and then let it decompose some? We age our manure for a few weeks before we give it to the worms.

As for the "tainted" manure. Some people believe that most of the medication is absorbed by the horse and therefor it won't hurt the worms. Because we don't know if it will hurt our worms or not, we wait one month after the horses have been de-wormed before we collect any more. I think that you should let it age about a month. That should give the manure plenty of time to "age" and allow the effects of the medication (if there are any) a chance to wear away.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 7:26PM
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I'm looking for some sort of cheap (free?) container to put the manure in for a couple of weeks. The plan is to moisten it and keep it damp for about two weeks, then put in a few worms, and see how they do. If they don't die, I'll assume the manure is OK for the bin.

With the last batch I had, I set some aside to moisten for a couple of weeks, then placed that in a corner of the bin. When I saw no problems after a couple of days, I dumped the rest in one end of the bin dry and sprayed it. I'm amazed how well the worms are eating what is still pretty hard chunks of manure. I have not noticed any heating. Maybe that is beacause it hasn't all gone soft at once.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 9:55PM
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beth_monsterworms(9 SF East Bay)

For a free container, try a paint store or contact a painter. They use those five gallon buckets all the time and they come with covers too. Once the paint is dry, you should be able to peel it off.

It's good that you monitor the manure because it sure can get hot. Yes, our worms love it too.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 1:45AM
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maryt1061(9 TX)

Even by waiting can you be sure it doesn't sterlize the worms? I have access to all kinds of horse manure but am to chicken to give it to them.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 12:33PM
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Another good source for free buckets is a bakery. They get their frostings in five gallon buckets. And, if you ask, they will most always save the lids for you too. I usually get mine from the bakery in my local grocery store; and use them for picking veggies as well as other things. But, it is always first come, first serve. So, when I need buckets, I always ask often!

Good luck,

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 1:08PM
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beth_monsterworms(9 SF East Bay)

Hi Mary,
Yes, we are chicken too. We have the schedule of when the horses will be de-wormed. We stockpile the manure before hand (we have a LOT of worms) and then we wait one month after they've been given the medication before we get any more. We've been doing this for awhile and we haven't had any problems. If we could get green_thumbz to chime in, he might be able to provide some more info.

Mary, could you ask when the horses will be medicated?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2009 at 2:23PM
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When reading suggestions of how to do things, most seem easy to follow until I'm down to really doing it. So here it is.
I picked up several bags of horse manure from a lady who boarded her horses (2) on a property nearby at the edge of an urban aerea near the woods. Not in a barn but in a gated area. She doesn't use straw, cleans up after the horses every day; so what I picked up are the pure horse apples.
From what I have seen,she feeds them mostly hay.
She doesn't have aged manure on the property because the bags and plastic containers get hauled away every so often.

Now, how do I aged them? I still have them in the closed garbage bags for about 4 months. I'm concerned if I open the bags and dump them into a pile at a corner of my back yard, my neighbours won't talk to me any longer.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 11:17AM
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I live in an apartment. I have some horse manure in an open plastic bag in my deck. There is no smell. I think keeping manure in a closed bag might be a mistake. If it goes anaerobic, it will probably stink.

If it had been able to breathe, I'd say waiting 4 months was probably long enough.

I now have a small amount in a cottage cheese container with about 10 worms in it. So far so good. I'll give it a few more days to be sure. In the mean time I have other things to feed them.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 5:22PM
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lostmarbles18(8 southern Az)

My worms eat nothing but horse manure (we have 2 horses).As far as aging I just wet it down real good and let it sit for a couple of weeks.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 3:09PM
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Your manure has to have air and be damp to age. Aging is just turning the horse apples into compost, getting it past the thermal stage is all that is needed.

If the manure is dry the composting stops and it will resume when the manure is dampened again. If you do have dry manure even (un-composted) you can add it to a bin a little bit at a time without too much worry without it heating up. Just treat it like food scraps instead of bedding.

On the de-wormer;
Ask the horse owner how long the packaging says the wormer is viable. Maybe they will have some packaging on hand for you to read.

All products of that type have to say on the packaging how long it will take for the product to wear off and break down. It will give the answers in the number of days. The wormer should wear off fairly quickly or the horses would become sick if the poison stayed in their system for too long. Wearing off is usually not much more time than it takes for the horse to "pass" the wormer. Breaking down can take longer. Depends on what active ingredient is used in the wormer.

Also keep in mind there is usually an second dose given a week to two weeks later. If you do get manure from a horse that has been wormed the amount of time needed for the wormers active ingredients to break down is the same inside or outside the horse. Just remember to keep it damp so that the wormer can continue to break down too.

One last thought horses are not the only critters wormed on a farm. When we wormed when i was a kid we wormed horses, cows, sheep, pigs, the family dog and cat, all at the same time. The idea was to worm them all at one time so that one group wouldn't reinfect the others.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 12:14AM
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Thanks fosteem1 cs. Your info helps.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2009 at 12:52PM
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