I can easily get my hands on horse manure from bedding locally. I might be able to collect the pure one with a little bit of patience (I don't need large quantities).

I'm wondering whether I should prefer the one or the other?

Is there a difference regarding composting time having in mind that the pure one is right the result of horses eating fresh stuff on the meadow and the bedding one is mixed up with straw? - Straw which, according to local people, will take ages to compost because it has been treated with fungicides (and other evil stuff) during its growth and this will inhibit the composting process.


3 Answers 3


Hmm... well, I don't know the particulars about the straw bedding you've got there but I can tell you the experience here on our farm and what I know about composting horse manure, having done it for the past 10 years or so. We also compost rabbit, chicken and goat manures here.

Horse manure definitely needs to be composted. A horse's digestive system is pretty simple and weed seeds can survive it, though I honestly don't see a lot of weeds germinating in our horse and donkey manure.

The manure itself has a good carbon to nitrogen ratio and composts well on its own. Left to its own, it breaks down really well without much other than keeping it moist.

Bedding will generally increase the carbon part of the equation and require additional nitrogen source. We sometimes add grasses, chicken manure (which is really "hot", meaning it's got a high nitrogen content and definitely needs to be composted) and kitchen scraps to it to boost the nitrogen. Anytime I've got manures mixed with bedding - wood shavings, sawdust or straw, I always ensure that I add a lot of nitrogen to help things move along more quickly.

You can do the lazy composting method - no turning, relying on more anaerobic composting and it'll take longer for both the manure by itself and the manure/bedding to break down or you can engage in what I call my "farm workout" by turning the pile to introduce oxygen into the pile and it'll be aerobic and typically break down faster - that's been my experience. Keeping it moist and turning it often - weekly or a couple times a month might be fine - will speed things up in both cases.

Moisture helps to encourage the decomposition process. If it dries out, it takes longer, particularly with the bedding.

I don't think my local source of straw uses fungicides and it breaks down reasonably fast.

I try to get my compost bins and piles to contain at least a cubic yard of material as that tends to encourage things to heat up more quickly but it isn't always possible. I'd shoot for something in that quantity (or more!) and see how that bedding breaks down. You might be surprised to see that it does so quickly.

  • Make sure that the owners of the horses have not sprayed their manure to keep flies down and check on the medications if any that they have their horses on...antibiotics, etc.
    – stormy
    Jul 30, 2014 at 17:58
  • @stormy Thanks for tip with the flies-down-spray. I was aware of overdosed medication.
    – Patrick B.
    Aug 1, 2014 at 6:41
  • 1
    @itsmatt What about smell? If I get some uncomposted manure how intense is the smell during the compostation phase? I have neighbors.
    – Patrick B.
    Aug 1, 2014 at 6:43
  • @PatrickB. It doesn't smell particularly bad, really. And definitely there is considerably less smell when decomposition is aerobic. When manure is really fresh and there is a considerable amount of it, it can smell but if there was a large pile of it, it's going to heat up quickly and start decomposing.
    – itsmatt
    Aug 2, 2014 at 1:10

Locally a horse-keeper uses sawdust in his stables instead of straw. While I don't know whether this is better or worse for horses it actually solved my problem of "purity".

The horse-owner just scrapes away the "produce" of the horse including a small amount of sawdust instead of replacing huge amounts of straw. Turns out that the resulting manure is purer than straw-based manure.

I got ~0.6 cube-meter fresh product for the moment and there was absolutely no smell (neither in hot nor rainy weather) for 3 months.

If there is no downside for the horses kept on sawdust I would recommend this as the ideal source of manure for hobby-gardener.

  • I was just about to mention that most horse owners bed on sawdust when I saw this. ++
    – RubberDuck
    Oct 25, 2014 at 19:45

If you can get straw-bedded manure, it's a good thing, IME. The only time the local farms spend on straw tends to be around foaling time - otherwise it's all shavings/wood-chips, which break down considerably slower. Straw has good mechanical aspects for compost aeration (lots of little tubes.) I suspect the "fungicide" argument is a stalking-horse.

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