All About Compost

Composting is a biological process: microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) convert raw organic waste like manure into stable, nutrient-rich organic matter. In large numbers, these microorganisms produce enough metabolic heat to increase temperatures inside the compost pile and kill weed seeds and pathogenic bacteria and viruses.

The basic requirements for composting are:

  1. Organic waste materials (manure, grass clippings, sawdust, food waste, etc.)
  2. A dedicated area
  3. Careful management

The same principles apply regardless of scale or materials. With a basic understanding of the biology of a compost pile, you are well on your way to being a master composter!

Composting is a very effective way to manage livestock manure and convert a waste product into a valuable soil amendment. The final product is a wonderful soil amendment that can be used on pastures and gardens to improve soil quality.

Compost has many advantages over raw manure:

  1. The high temperatures reached during the compost process kill weed seeds, parasites, and pathogens that might be present in the raw materials.

  2. Composting reduces the initial volume of raw materials by 30 – 50%.

  3. Unlike raw manure, compost is not a source of unpleasant odors or water pollution; does not attract pests or flies; and looks good around your rose bushes or tomato plants.

Additional Resources

Backyard Composting – Washington State University Extension

Dairy Waste Composting – Washington State University Extension

Horse Manure Composting – WSU Whatcom County Extension

Manure Compost Marketing Guide – WSU Whatcom County Extension

On-farm Composting of Large Animal Mortalities – Washington State University Extension

Composting Dog Waste – Alaska NRCS

Persistent Herbicides in Compost – WSU Whatcom County Extension

Small-Farm Composting Guide

Cost analysis of in-vessel vs. open pile composting of stable waste

Agricultural Composting and Water Quality