Title

Common Manure Composting Problems and Their Solutions

(NM2046, February 2022)
Summary

Take this quick guide to the compost piles and use it as a reference when you have questions about smell, temperature, moisture level and insects. This publication will help you determine common causes and solutions to compost pile issues.

 

Lead Author
Lead Author:
Mary A. Keena, NDSU Extension Specialist, Livestock Environmental Management
Other Authors

Chryseis Modderman, UMN Extension Educator, Manure Nutrient Management

Melissa L. Wilson, UMN Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Manure Management and Water Quality

Jeff Gale, NDSU Foster County Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources

Availability
Availability:
Available in print
Publication Sections
Temperature Gauge

This chart is to be used as a supplement to NDSU Extension publication NM1478 (Keena, 2022). 

Symptom Cause Solution
Rotten Egg Smell Not enough oxygen due to compaction Turn and mix pile to create air pockets. If particle size is too small (<1/8 inch), add bulkier particles such as woodchips about 2 inches in size.
  Excessive moisture (water drips from squeeze test) Turn and mix pile to aid drying. If particle size is too small (<1/8 inch), add bulkier particles such as woodchips about 2 inches in size.
Ammonia Smell Excess nitrogen Add more carbon sources (straw, leaves, etc.)
Pile does not heat up Pile is too small. Increase pile size to at least 5 ft high x 5 ft wide x 5 ft deep
  Pile is too dry. – most common problem (manure/compost crumbles with squeeze test) While turning and mixing pile, add water with a hose or bucket. Let pile rest for several hours, then retest with the squeeze test. Add more water if necessary.
  Not enough nitrogen Add nitrogen sources (grass clippings, hay, etc.).
  Not enough oxygen Turn and mix pile to introduce oxygen. If particles are too small, add bulkier items such as woodchips.
  Cold/winter weather Make sure the pile is large enough (at least 5 ft x 5 ft x 5 ft). Turn and mix pile less frequently than in warm weather.
  Composting is complete. Compost is complete when it resembles soil and is crumbly.
Attracts insects, millipedes, slugs, etc. This is normal. To minimize insect problems, keep at the proper moisture level (40-65%). Make sure the pile is heating to high enough temperatures to kill insect eggs (>104°F) (Nielsen et al., 2007).

 

Pounds of bulk material needed to raise C:N to 30:1 (per 100 lb. of manure)

Material to add and its avg. C:N

Initial manure C:N

10:1

Pounds of material to add 

Initial manure C:N

15:1

Pounds of material to add 

Initial manure C:N

20:1

Pounds of material to add 

Initial manure C:N 

25:1

Pounds of material to add 

Leaves (55:1)

415 

215

110

45

Straw, oat (60:1)

370

190

95

40

Straw, general (80:1)

295

150

75

30

Straw, wheat (125:1)

240

125

65

25

Sawdust (440:1)

195

100

50

20

Wood shavings (600:1)

190

100

50

20

Newsprint (625:1)

190

100

50

20

Example: If the manure has a C:N of 15:1, you will need to add 190 pounds of oat straw per 100 pounds of manure to bring the overall C:N up to the desired 30:1.

Source: On-Farm Composting Handbook, NRAES-54 (Rynk et al., 1992)

References:

Keena, M. A. 2022. Composting Animal Manures: A guide to the process and management of animal manure compost. North Dakota State University Cooperative Extension publication NM1478.

Nielsen, M.K., Kaplan, R.M., Thamsborg, S.M., Monrad, J., Olsen, S.N., 2007. Climatic influences on development and survival of free-living stages of equine strongyles: Implications for worm control strategies and managing anthelmintic resistance. Vet. J. 174, 23-32.

Thank you to our reviewers: Lindy Berg, NDSU Extension, Towner County; Renae Gress, NDSU Extension, Morton County; Greg Klinger, UMN Extension, Water Resources Center; and Annie Klodd, UMN Extension, Farmington Regional Office

More information is available at ndsu.edu/agriculture/ag-hub.