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Has anyone heard of using whey to stimulate reproduction of compost worms?


12:29 am
June 4, 2012

Howard Hopper

Grecia Costa Rica


posts 6

Hi its Howard again. In talking about the reproduction of compost worms the supplier I have used suggested mixing suero, (spanish for milk whey), with horse manure to promote reproduction. In general in normal composting one avoids animal proteins and fats, but in the case of whey most fats and proteins have been removed in the process of making cheese. I never seen this suggested in vermiculture literature.

Two thoughts come to mind. (1) There is not much left in whey to attract potential predators and (2) milk is mildly basic and I imagine the whey is too, so it could be a way to slightly elevate the PH if needed, if indeed it does have the added benefit of in some way stimulating reproduction. 

No better place to plant, than in the trails of worms.

7:16 pm
June 4, 2012

Philip Rock


posts 84

As I am pretty new to vermicomposting myself – I've no idea if whey is a valuable additive.  I found a couple of links about whey composition that may be of help:  whey 1  whey 2

Whey is a major by-product in the dairy industry.  I assume you are talking about crude whey in it's liquid form?  That you can probably get for free, no?  You'll likely have to pay for dried whey solids.

Depending on the source, whey is actually slightly to mildly acidic.  It contains a fair amount of lactose and some protein.  This would certainly stimulate the growth of bacteria upon which the worms can feed – and possibly be a source of immediate protein for the worms themselves.  However in it's liquid form, how much of it will you actually use?  I never seem to need to add liquid to my bins as the water content of the vegetable scraps I use is very high.  If you need to moisten the horse manure, liquid whey may be a valuable amendment.

You may be pioneering here, Howard.  I would definitely suggest you do some small-scale preliminary tests before using it in your primary bins.  The problem may be that the lactose will be fermented by the bacteria – and lower the pH.  Both the lactose and the protein present in whey could lead to your pile heating up – so it may be best to use the whey as an additive to your horse manure prior to pre-composting. Try a small test bin and see how the worms like it.  That would be my best guess/advice…please bear in mind that this is just that – a guess on my part!  Good luck to you!

3:20 am
June 5, 2012

Howard Hopper

Grecia Costa Rica


posts 6

Hi Philip: Thank You for your reply, it set me to thinking and doing a little investigation of my own.

Your assumption of my question of using crude whey was correct. Many small 1 – 20 cow dairies here sometimes produce a form of cheese when they have more milk than they can sell to the neighbors. The strained liquid is mostly discarded, therefore acquiring a small supply would be free and easy.

I had heard in the past that milk was slightly basic and often used to settle an acid stomach. When reading your linked information of the composition of whey and the different PHs in different types of whey, I googled for the PH of milk and found milk has a PH range of 6.4 to 6.8, mildly acidic. Thank you for the correction.

Also your statement about possibly pioneering research and best to test small first, is prudent advice, if as it appears no one else has read of using whey with worms to stimulate reproduction. Being a newbie to vermiculture and lacking the science background or laboratory supplies or equipment, it is best I leave the pioneering to those more qualified and limit myself simple experimentation and observation techniques ubiquitous in everyday gardening and living.

Again, thank you for your reply and insight.

Cheers, Howard 

No better place to plant, than in the trails of worms.

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