How to Manage
    the bigger picture - manure produced land available
    storing manure
    composting manure
    recycling manure & compost


Storing Manure

Photo courtesy of the USDA NRCS. This manure pile is lined and covered with a plastic liner. The cover is weighted down with wooden posts.

- Location

- Contain the manure

- Storage options

- Keep clean water clean

- Treat the dirty water

- Consider composting

- Sizing storage area


  • Keep manure away from wells and water resources (drainage ditches, ponds, streams, wetlands, areas with a high water table, etc.) Over 200 feet away is best and at least 100 feet away.
  • Locate manure storage areas downslope of wells and water resources where possible.
  • Keep as far away from property lines as possible. Some communities may have laws.
  • Consider neighbors and prevailing winds.

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Contain the manure - line it, cover it, contain it. This helps to prevent water mixing in with the pile and nutrients and pathogens from being carried away in runoff.

Photo courtesy of the Livestock and Land Program, CA.

Also, manure piles can generate leachate or liquids with a high concentration of nutrients and pathogens that can soak down into groundwater. Lining and covering manure piles helps to prevent leachate and runoff from impacting ground and surface waters and is very important when site conditions do not allow for an ideal location.

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Low cost option:
Compost, leaves, or woodchips are an option for lining the bottom of a manure storage area. There should be a minimum finished depth of 6-12 inches under the weight of the pile (this will require up to 1 foot of compost at the start).
Covering the pile with a tarp or plastic liner will provide double the protection.

A base of compost, leaves or woodchips will be most most effective for a 6 month period and should be replenished (manure removed and a new pile established) at least once per year. Information based on research conducted by the University of Connecticut.

Convenient storage options:

Photo courtesy of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

Storing manure in dump trailers, dump trucks, and dumpsters are an option when hauling the manure away at frequent intervals. It is best when the manure is going to a farm that can use it or a compost facility. Open trailers and trucks should be covered with a tarp or plastic liner.

Photo courtesy of the Mid-Atlantic Equine Pasture Initiative.

Other storage examples:

Manure is stored under a roofed area and on a concrete pad.
Photo courtesy of the Livestock and Land Program, CA.

Manure pile lined and covered with a plastic liner.
Photo courtesy of the Mid-Atlantic Equine Pasture Initiative.

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Keep clean water clean - do not let water from roofed areas and other land areas flow into and mix with the manure pile. Divert this runoff away from the manure pile.

Photo courtesy of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. Open manure storage structure with concrete floor and three walls built out of pre-cast concrete blocks.

Walls can help to serve as a container and divert clean runoff from entering the manure storage area. In an open, non-covered storage area such as this, it is important to consider the runoff coming from the manure storage area. where does it go?

Roofing or covering a manure pile is also a key way to prevent direct rainfall or snow from mixing with the manure pile. This also reduces or eliminates "dirty" runoff from leaving the manure storage area.

Photo courtesy of the Livestock and Land Program, CA.

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Treat the dirty water:

Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS. Grass filter area that soaks up barnyard runoff.

Be sure to direct "dirty" runoff leaving a manure storage area to well vegetated areas - vegetated swales, grassed areas, woodlands, etc. - that can soak up the nutrient and pathogen rich water.

Do not allow it to travel near wells, water resources, along driveways or off the property.

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Consider composting the manure

Photo courtesy of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

Composting produces a stable, soil-like product that is free of weed seeds and pathogens when done correctly. Manure with lots of wood shavings and sawdust can actually deplete the soil of nitrogen when applied to crops and gardens.

This is because of the high levels of carbon contained in the wood products - the carbon to nitogen ratio or C:N ratio is typically 500:1. Composting is a good option for manure with lots of bedding.

Visit our composting page for more information.

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Determine how big an area you will need to store the manure.

Measure the amount of manure and bedding collected from the barns and livestock yards each day. This may change depending on the season. More manure is often collected during winter months when the animals spend more time in the barn.

The manure and bedding produced by one average horse is between 2 and 2.5 cubic yards per month or 25 cubic yards per year.

This would require a storage area of about 12 feet by 12 feet with an accumulated depth of 3 to 5 feet for one year of storage.

When recycling manure on-farm, 6 months storage is common to allow for spring and early fall manure applications.

Average daily manure production from various livestock are available on the bigger picture - how much manure is produced, how much land is available page.

You can also contact the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for assistance with estimating animal waste production.

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