Kinds Of Manure
There are many kinds of manure and various samples of the same type of manure may not be equal. This demonstrates the principle of what goes in comes out. Plants concentrate proteins and mineral nutrients in their seed so animals fed on seed (like chickens) excrete manure nearly as high in minerals and with a C/N like seed meals (around 8:1). Alfalfa hay is a legume with a C/N around 12:1.
Rabbits fed almost exclusively on alfalfa pellets make a rich manure with a similar C/N. Spring grass and high quality hay and other leafy greens have a C/N nearly as good as alfalfa. Livestock fed the best hay supplemented with grain and silage make fairly rich manure. Pity the unfortunate livestock trying to survive as “strawburners” eating overly mature grass hay from depleted fields. Their manure will be as poor as the food and soil they are trying to live on.
When evaluating manure, also consider the nature and quantity of bedding mixed into it. Our local boarding stables keep their lazy horses on fir sawdust. The idle “riding” horses are usually fed very strawy local grass hay with just enough supplemental alfalfa and grain to maintain a minimal healthy condition. The “horse manure” I’ve hauled from these stables seems more sawdust than manure. It must have a C/N of 50 or 60:1 because by itself it will barely heat up.
Manure mixed with straw is usually richer stuff. Often this type comes from dairies. Modern breeds of milk cows must be fed seed meals and other concentrates to temporarily sustain them against depletion from unnaturally high milk production.
After rabbit and chicken, horse manure from well-fed animals like race horses or true, working animals may come next. Certainly it is right up there with the best cow manure. Before the era of chemical fertilizer, market gardeners on the outskirts of large cities took wagon loads of produce to market and returned with an equivalent weight of “street sweepings.” What they most prized was called “short manure,” or horse manure without any bedding. Manure and bedding mixtures were referred to as “long manure” and weren’t considered nearly as valuable.
Finally, remember that over half the excretion of animals is urine. And far too little value is placed on urine. As early as 1900 it was well known that if you fed one ton (dry weight) of hay and measured the resulting manure after thorough drying, only 800 pounds was left. What happened to the other 1,200 pounds of dry material? Some, of course, went to grow the animal. Some was enzymatically “burned” as energy fuel and its wastes given off as CO2 and H2O. Most of it was excreted in liquid form.
After all, what is digestion but an enzymatic conversion of dry material into a water solution so it can be circulated through the bloodstream to be used and discarded as needed. Urine also contains numerous complex organic substances and cellular breakdown products that improve the health of the soil ecology.
However, urine is not easy to capture. It tends to leach into the ground or run off when it should be absorbed into bedding. Chicken manure and the excrements of other fowl are particularly valuable in this respect because the liquids and solids of their waste are uniformly mixed so nothing is lost. When Howard worked out his system of making superior compost at Indore, he took full measure of the value of urine and paid great care to its capture and use.
Paper is almost pure cellulose and has a very high C/N like straw or sawdust. It can be considered a valuable source of bulk for composting if you’re using compost as mulch. Looked upon another way, composting can be a practical way to recycle paper at home.
The key to composting paper is to shred or grind it. Layers of paper will compress into airless mats. Motor-driven hammermill shredders will make short work of dry paper. Once torn into tiny pieces and mixed with other materials, paper is no more subject to compaction than grass clippings.
Even without power shredding equipment, newsprint can be shredded by hand, easily ripped into narrow strips by tearing whole sections along the grain of the paper, not fighting against it.