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Good time to consider converting your livestock droppings into fertilizer pellets… on your own


It is not as complicated as you might initially think

droppings_picConverting your livestock droppings into fertilizer pellets involves 3 main steps.  However, before you dive into it, it is important to know about your livestock droppings and how it behaves as a fertilizer.  No droppings are produced the same and hence, taking time to understand them will help you use them to their greatest potential.  Here, we summarize some key facts to give you a head start.

Most raw droppings have a high level of nitrogen, which, instead of encouraging growth, will destroy the roots of plants, resulting in unhealthy looking plants.  Such droppings are usually labelled as ‘hot’ manure.  Before you pelletize them, these droppings have to be composted to achieve the carbon to nitrogen ratio balance of 25:1.

The droppings of large herbivores such as horses and cows usually have the ideal carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of 25:1.  This means that you can add them directly to the soil without the concern of over fertilizing.  These droppings are labelled as ‘cool’ manure.

Generally, the more grass an animal consumes as its diet, the lower the nitrogen content of its droppings.  Animals that prefer woody plants (goats) or vegetables (rabbits) have more concentrated nutrients in their feces.  In general, the more grass an animal has in its diet, the lower the nitrogen content.  Animals that like to eat woody plants (goats) or vegetables (rabbits) have more concentrated nutrients in their feces.  Hence, their manure is relatively ‘cool’ and safe to use without composting.  However, to be on the safer side, experts recommend aging it first for at least a month or two.

On the other hand, manure from omnivores such as chickens and pigs are considered very ‘hot’ manures – they possess high level of nitrogen, and have high bad odors.  On this note, it is necessary to compost omnivore manure thoroughly before using, rather than aging it.

Approximate Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratios of Select Manures:

Animal  Carbon-to-Nitrogen
Cow 25-1
Horse 20-1
Sheep 15-1
Swine 12-1
People 10-1
Poultry 7-1


Referring to the ratios above, pig droppings, among the omnivore species, have the mildest manure in terms of nitrogen content.  Hence, according to some websites, you can mix these droppings at a 1-to-1 ratio with straw, dried leaves or wood shavings to create a well-balanced compost pile.  Pig droppings also have a high pH level, thus making acidic soils more neutral.

Even though you have effectively composted your manures, i.e. achieving the 25:1 Carbon-to-Nitrogen ratio, it is also important to know that different manures have their own unique characteristics and fertilizing suitability.  For example, poultry manure (chickens), contain high levels of phosphorus, making this a suitable choice for growing flowers and fruits. Chicken manure is also more acidic and a good choice for growing blueberries.

A word regarding carnivores – their manure is one of the richest, and experts strongly recommend against using these for plants that are for human consumption, since there is a risk of pathogen contamination.

Finally, the 3 main steps for pelletizing composted manure:

  1. Drying of composted manure – Drying them under the hot sun is an almost free and ideal option. However, it may take days to achieve the optimum moisture content of 15% or less.  Alternatively, you may wish to invest in a rotating drum dryer that provides a much faster drying process.  Rotating drum dryers require heat from a furnace to dry the composted manure
  2. Removal of foreign objects – Before you load the dried composted manure into the pellet mill, ensure that foreign objects like rocks, stones or even metallic substances are removed.  You can remove them manually or invest in a mechanical sieve.  Foreign objects can potentially jam and damage the holes of the pellet mill die
  3. Pelleting the dried composted manual – Load them into a compact pellet mill and collect the pellets in a basket.  As the freshly produced pellets are hot, leave them to cool first before storing them in sealed bags