Easy Guide: Composting Cow Manure

Last Updated on October 29, 2022 by Cinthia

For centuries, new farming techniques have been developed to improve the lives of farmers and food producers as well as to increase food production. These new farming methodologies have been developed through the years, studied, researched, and applied in the farmlands in various corners of the world. It is not only in farmlands that these certain methods are applicable but also in gardening. One of the basic techniques developed in agriculture and horticulture is utilizing animal manure as a fertilizer.

Animal manures have been used in agriculture as a fertilizer to enrich the soil. Dungs from different livestock animals and poultry such as chickens and pigs are utilized. Cow manures have also been popularly used as a fertilizer for soil enrichment for crops and other various seedlings to grow. However, while cow manure is deemed to be an outstanding fertilizer, fresh cow excrement contains too much salt in it and a high amount of ammonia which can cause plants to burn. Not to mention that this also contains an unpleasant odor.

 To get the best out of cow manure without those disagreeable characteristics, it is suggested to do composting on the excrement. 

What is Composting?
How to Compost Horse Manure Fast?
How to Compost Horse Manure Fast?

Composting is the process of putting together biologic and organic remnants. Examples of these biodegradable residues include food wastes and scraps, straw, leaf clippings, and of course, animal excrements. These leftovers are gathered; stacked or piled, and blended and slightly wetted to go through a thermophilic decomposition. 

Composting products are generally used both in agriculture as a fertilizer and in horticulture; they are used as a viable alternative for peat. It is also noted that compost is put on to enhance the composition of soil and as a microbial supplement to elevate enzymatic activities. 

Easy Guide Composting Cow Manure

Benefits of Compost

Composting is used to improve soil fertility; the soil’s capability to store and hold water and moisture; the organic characteristics of the soil; and lastly, it’s volume and density. Aside from these, compositing has lessened the odor produced in the soil and the number of fly eggs because of the thermophilic reaction taking place during microbial putrefaction. 

Unbeknown to many, composting has also helped in eliminating weed seeds and pathogens. Generally, weed seeds happen to pass inside livestock and can multiply in animal manure such as cows. During composting, some weed seeds are eliminated on the 21st day while others take about 42 days to be dispatched. Thus, through composting, the volume of herbicides or tillage used for weed control has been reduced. Aside from getting rid of weed seeds, composting has also helped in destroying infectious agents such as Escherichia coli by only 3 days if the appropriate heat has been reached (about 131 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Composting has also been shown to decrease the density and volume of the animal excrement by 50 to 65 percent. 

Longevity in Making Compost from Cow Manure

How long does it take cow manure to compost? Normally, the process takes 3 months or less for cow manure to compost. The process depends on several factors; namely, the dimension of the pile utilized for compost, the right combination of carbon and nitrogen content in the compost, and water management. Also, the amount of oxygen being incorporated matters– and of course, the temperature of the compost.

Making a Compost

Choosing the Site 

Before making compost, you need to look for the appropriate site. Essentially, the area for the compost must have good drainage into the containment pond, and leached water must not reach any water reservoir. Of course, the site must not be placed beside surficial waters. The composition of the soil must be concrete or loaded. 

Pile Dimension 

After selecting a site, you need to gather the manure into a windrow. The dimension of the pile is normally between 10 and 12 feet wide and the height must be 4 to 6 feet. Because of these, in a day or two, the temperature of the pile will reach above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. It must be noted that going for something smaller than the dimension required will cause the pile to not get the exact required heat for a thermophilic reaction while a larger one will cause the pile to acquire less amount of air or oxygen. 

Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio

As soon as the dimensions of the pile have been set, the combination of carbon to nitrogen ratio must be determined. The ratio of carbon to nitrogen must be set to 20:1; loosely, for 20 parts of carbon, there must be one part of nitrogen. This is because approximately half of the metabolized carbon is converted to carbon dioxide. One must also take note that too much nitrogen will cause it to loosen and may cause the pile to smell like vaporous ammonia whereas excess carbon can inactivate nitrogen and decelerate the process of composting. 

Easy Guide Composting Cow Manure

Water Management

Water is another important element in the process of making compost. About 40 to 65 percent of the pore space in the compost requires water, and the compost must have an ample amount of moisture. 


A chemical reaction needs to occur; therefore, microorganisms need oxygen to create such a reaction to convert manure to compost. Suitable aerobic conditions must be met. There are different ways to introduce and replenish oxygen into the compost. One, it can be done by turning the compost every 3 days. Second, using a pitchfork, the compost must poke around. Third, it involves the use of Compose Aerator which makes the job easier since air will be established into the pile. 

Lotech Products Compost Crank Compost Aerator


The last fundamental factor that needs to be monitored in the compost is the temperature. A probe-type thermometer can be utilized to observe the temperature of the compost and to detect when to turn the pile. By turning, it can help the pile if the temperature falls below 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It has been suggested that the temperature of the pile must not be greater than 131 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 days, and turning must be done at least five times. On the other hand, temperatures must not reach above 160 degrees Fahrenheit that can cause important microorganisms to be eliminated, thus causing a drop in the activity of microbes and decelerating the process. 


What are some ways to compost cow manure?

The most common method is to spread it on your garden. But this method has several drawbacks, not the least of which is that the manure is mixed with urine and excrement from your animals, and therefore it may carry diseases that can harm your plants. Another popular method is to mix it with a composting bin. This method is effective, but it requires constant vigilance, and if you are away for any length of time, your compost could go bad and attract pests.

You can try to find a friend who has a compost bin or a large quantity of manure and ask him or her if you can dump your scraps in there.

The composting process will turn your manure into a nutrient-rich fertilizer.

If you live in a community that has a composting program, you may be able to dump your scraps there.

What are good steps for composting cow manure?

Cow manure can be composted by adding it to a bin of other materials, including sawdust, shredded paper and straw. This is the preferred method for most composters, as it produces an excellent product with no odor. To compost cow manure, follow these steps:

1. Collect cow manure from the barn, or find a local farmer who has cows that have just given birth.

2. Add the manure to a bin of other materials, such as shredded paper, straw and wood shavings.

3. Turn the mixture once a week.

4. When the pile is at least 6 inches deep, add sand to help keep the pile aerated.

5. Cover the pile with a tarp or plastic to keep it from drying out.

6. Check the pile every few days to make sure it is not burning.

7. After about one month, the compost should be ready.

8. You can spread it on your garden in a fall application. For More Information There are many different methods for composting cow manure, but if you have access to a large quantity of manure, you can apply it to your garden in a fall application.

Can you apply as fertilizer?

If you have access to a cow or horse, you can try spreading it on your lawn as fertilizer. It's not very effective, however, because cows and horses don't actually eat grass; they eat green plants. You would need to spread the manure on the grass and then mow it into the soil.


Overall, composting has benefits that can help the soil and the environment as well. This method is practical in a way that it can help eliminate waste by solving it practically and environmentally. Though the process may take a few weeks to complete, a dark, crumbly, and earthy smell compost as a final product is not bad after all.