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Is that manure good for the garden?

Manure is a natural fertiliser.


When I think of manure it always takes me back to those good old days out on the farm. We used to walk barefoot on the cold grass, during winter, while the cattle graze on the open meadows. Then you notice the fresh manure and stick your feet in. Instantly your toes are back to normal temperature in the heat of the manure.

Most people, especially children of today will be pulling their noses in disgust as to what has just been said. For centuries manure has been used in many different applications as it is recently even used as a biofuel.

If you happen to have any livestock, then you should certainly have considered the benefits of manure. To this day it remains one of the best all organic choices for re-energizing soil. Not all animal manure is the same, but they are all teeming with all kinds of life. It is full of nutrients and contains a slew of enzymes and bacteria which are very helpful to building strength in the soil.

How much nutrients can there be in manure?

Besides the nutrients that plants get from air and water there are at least 14 essential elements all plants absolutely need in order to live: nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur, boron, chlorine, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, molybdenum, and nickel.  Because manure is a natural fertiliser it contains Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium which are the main elements in any fertiliser.

The solid parts of manure differ greatly from the liquid part of manure as not all have the same nutrients available.

Approximate percentage of nutrients in faeces vs urine:

Species Nitrogen Phosphorous Potassium
Cattle 49/51 100/0 15/85
Sheep 63/37 95/5 30/70
Horse 62/38 100/0 56/44
Swine 67/33 43/57 57/43



Although human waste is never suitable for composting there is one exception to the rule, urine. Human urine is an excellent source of plant nutrients as it contains nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium. sulphur and small amounts of micronutrients. It is considered close to sterile when it comes from healthy people.

Knowing which manure has the best nutrients will make a huge difference in helping your soil and plants to remain healthy and strong.

How much manure can animals really produce?

Animal Weight of animal Yearly moist manure production
Horses 450kg 8 100 kg
Dairy Cattle 635kg 24 494 kg
Beef Cattle 500kg 13 607 kg
Sheep and Goats 70kg 907 kg
Swine 70kg 1 542 kg
Poultry 2.4kg 73 kg
Rabbits 3.6kg 22 kg

From the least amount of manure from rabbits to the highest amount of manure from dairy cattle, if you happen to have livestock then there is a huge amount of waste that can be used to benefit your gardens.


Which manure is best to use?

  1. Chicken Manure

Chicken manure is at the top of the chain when it comes to powering soil, plants and compost piles. Because birds don’t urinate, their manure is concentrated as a mixture of both solid and liquid waste. Chickens feed on everything from grass, bugs, seeds and more which makes their manure rich in organic matter.

Chicken manure is hot and should be aged or composted before using in your soil. It is more alkaline in nature and not suitable around acidic loving plants. The organic matter in chicken manure helps to feed soil microbes allowing organic nutrients to break down faster. This is then made available to plants more quickly.

The nitrogen and phosphorous content in chicken manure is at least twice as high as that of other farm manures such as cow manure. Make sure to add this into your compost pile to age and see the difference it can make in your garden.

  1. Rabbit Manure

Rabbit manure is a close second place to that of chicken manure when it comes to nutrient levels. Nearly a quarter of its makeup consists of organic matter providing plenty of structure and substance to soil.

Similar to chicken manure it also contains high levels of nitrogen. Due to the small size of the droppings it is extremely easy to work into your compost piles. Just like all manures it is best used once it has aged.

Adding rabbit manure to your compost pile will help speed up the composting process as its high moisture content helps to heat up a compost pile incredibly fast.


  1. Horse Manure

Horse manure contains 25% organic matter. It has much less nitrogen compared to chicken and rabbit manure but still adds plenty of nutrients.

Aged horse manure is great for top dressing gardens in fall. Over the winter months this will break down and add structure, nutrients and organic mass to the soil.

Adding horse manure to your compost piles will add moisture and help increase the internal temperatures. The moisture content in horse manure is about 75%. This can provide moisture and oxygen to the core of a compost pile help to speed up decomposition.


  1. Goat Manure

Goat manure is extremely balanced manure and when composted it can re-energise soil and plants very quickly. The best part of goat manure is that it has the least odorous smell of all manure when it comes to fresh manure.

Goat manure improves the soil texture and provides a rich environment for roots to grow well. The naturally dry pellets of manure is easy to collect and apply and far less messy than the other manures.

The most common use for goat manure is as a fertiliser. Due to its pelleted state it is easy to spread and till in the garden. And being odourless makes it even better as your garden will not be overrun with manure smells.


  1. Cow Manure

Although cow manure contains the least amount of organic matter and nitrogen, it still brings plenty of benefits to your soil and plants. This is much larger manure which allows for much bigger amounts of substance to be added to your compost pile or soil.

Just like horse manure, cow manure is great to use as top dressing for gardens during fall. It decomposes quickly and by spring will be ready to power your plants.

Cow manure is great as a general fertiliser containing 3% nitrogen, 2% phosphorous and 1% potassium. The downfall is that it also contains ammonia and dangerous pathogens and bacteria. Aging or decomposition process is necessary to break down the organic matter and eliminate harmful substances before the manure is used.

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