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pre composting manure


7:47 am
May 10, 2012

Sara K. Weeks

New Member

posts 1

what is the process for pre-composting manure? Should a regular compost pile be built with the standard 30:1 brown to green? Or can you just pile the manure for a couple weeks and it be good?

4:05 am
May 23, 2012

Philip Rock


posts 84

Ms. Weeks – I got tired of not seeing anyone reply to your query.  As it's been a couple of weeks since you posted…you might already have your answer!  I never done any real thermophilic composting but that is pretty much what you'll want to do.  The idea is to allow your manure pile to heat up to kill any pathogenic bacteria and weed seeds that may be present in the manure – and to prevent it from heating up your worm bin.  What you need to add to your manure will depend upon what kind of manure you've got.  From what I've read, horse manure pretty much is perfect – if there is not too much straw mixed in with it.  A big old pile (the rule of thumb is at least a cubic yard) properly moistened, should be good to go in a couple of weeks, but you may need to turn it a few times to hasten the pre-composting process. If you do a quick Internet search using the term "pre-composting manure" you'll find lots of good advice.  Good luck to you!  

10:01 pm
May 29, 2012

Thomas Hoffman

New Member

posts 1

I was wondering about this as well. I found a discussion at that talked about this. They were concerned about pre-composting too much and killing off the beneficial bacteria. This is the link to the discussion:…..composting  These guys only pre-compost a few days before putting the manure on their flow-through worm beds.


Anyway, I thought this was an interesting discussion because I always thought the reason the compost gets hot is because of the bacteria doing their job. Once they finish their mission, another type of bacteria takes over and the process cools down. I also thought the one of the main reasons for pre-composting was to prevent heat buildup in the worm beds.


I would be interested in others' view on this topic…



8:16 pm
June 1, 2012

Philip Rock


posts 84

Dear TRH – I know you wanted others' views…but… its me again!  Thanks for the link to the pre-composting discussion – very informative!  I'm sure my suggestion to Ms. Weeks to let the manure pile go several weeks would probably be overkill.  At that point it would pretty much be compost and could be used as such.  It wouldn't hurt the worms and would probably act as good bedding but there wouldn't be much nutritional value for the worms.  As I said, I don't have any experience in traditional composting – and my vermicomposting operation is a very modest one.

You are correct; the main reason for pre-composting is to ensure that it will not get too hot for the worms.   When you say "…pre-composting too much and killing off the beneficial bacteria.",  I don't think that's too much of a concern.  Rather, I think the concern is that the compost bacteria will have already consumed most of the nutrients.  Really, what is going on in a large thermophilic compost pile, is that huge numbers of microorganisms are growing and breaking down most of the 'easy' to break down organic matter – the relatively simple carbohydrates, proteins and whatever fats may be present – and releasing lot's of heat in the process.  This heat favors the growth of thermophilic ('heat-loving') bacteria that continue to break down the less easy organic matter (cellulose, pectins, and to some extent, lignins).  What is left after complete composting is 'humus' which is more of this cellulose and lignin, that is only broken down very slowly.  This is the soil amendment that slowly releases nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, etc.), improves soil structure and aids in moisture retention.   Vermicompost is fairly similar, though studies have shown it can often be higher in these nutrients and may contain larger numbers of bacteria that can be beneficial for plant growth (just how much 'better' it is than regular compost depends on what you are feeding the worms).

The worms are deriving a large amount of their nutrition from eating the bacteria that are growing on the feed stock.  The vermicompost pile is a mesophilic ('moderate temperature') ecosystem.  That is one reason why the piles are not as deep as regular compost piles and that too much of the easy to breakdown organic matter is bad, as it will encourage the thermophilic bacteria.  The idea is to strike a happy medium.  Just enough 'easy to break down' organic material mixed with the 'harder to breakdown' material (paper, cardboard, coconut coir, shredded leaves, pre-composted manure, etc.), added in thin layers to the top of the worm bin, allows the mesophilic microorganisms to grow and breakdown the material.  The worms do their part by keeping the pile well aerated, grazing on these bacteria, fungi and protozoa, as well as consuming any other easy to digest material (starches, proteins, fats) that the microorganisms don't get to first.  



3:07 am
June 24, 2012

Joe Davis

New Member

posts 2

hi sara, i'm new at this also,but i do know that you have to make sure that the manure that you are using does not have any de-wormers in it by way of the animal from which you get your manure.hope this helps.Smile

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