Steer manure home depot

Animal manures in the gardenSteer Manure

by Liz Newman
(Stockton California)

Regarding all the different animal manures in a garden, I’d like more information. Can steer manure be used in a no dig garden for the fertilizer?
I’m getting both yes and no answers and I don’t want to mess up my first attempt at a vegetable garden….I hope to get an answer soon so I can start the building process. Thank you in advance. Liz Newman

Megan replies… I’ll use this reader’s question to dump all the knowledge I have on ALL animal manures, from Aardvarks to Zebras. I get a lot of emails about this subject, so here we go with a pile of sssssteaming facts.
The manures that gardeners mostly use are cow, horse, sheep and chicken. They are organic, consisting of mostly of digested plant matter, some nitrogen, potash and small amounts of many trace elements. Real humdinger stuff for your garden — there’s enough goodness in this fuel to power battleships and beetroot, rockets and rocket lettuce. Smells good too, and the worms love it.
It’s a head-scratcher of a mystery why people go to garden centers and buy bags of artificial fertiliser instead of going to the nearest pony club, racing stables, chicken or egg farm, goat, sheep, beef, cow farm, or anywhere there are herbivorous animals or birds kept and raised in good (organic if possible) conditions.
Although they contain good amounts of nutrients, manures are especially good as soil conditioners… that is, they break down clay soils and build up sandy soils. Animal manure is not crash hot in N-P-K (Nitrogen/Phosphorous/Potassium) so a dressing of blood and bone provides a concentrated natural source of these.
Animal manures make good mulch once they are dried and the best are natural pelleted manures from the likes of sheep and others as they resist breakdown longer. They contain micro-organisms which are essential in helping plants break down and digest nutrients. They are good compost accelerators to help breakdown plant material.
Most animal manures for the garden are best put in the compost, layered with leaves or other carbon material. Or they can be scattered in the garden in shallow layers. Otherwise particularly with horse manure or cow manure, leave to age and dry for 3-4 months before adding to the garden. Cover if necessary to deter flies.
A pile of fresh manure on your garden, like a pile of fresh grass clippings starts decomposing rapidly and will heat up to plant burning strength in no time! If you’ve ever mown your lawn and mounded up the grass clippings, within a few days bet you couldn’t put your hand in the middle.
The most common animal manure for the garden is sheep manure. This is often available in bags at garden centers. Fine to buy if you don’t live out in the sticks near a farmer. Sheep manure is easy to handle and apply, like little pellets. Use straight on your garden as a compost layer or mix some in with your other compost scraps.

Next steer manure, or what I call cow manure. Again this is lovely sweet composty smelling organic gold for your garden. If you let it dry a bit then it’s easy to handle and crumble into smaller bits for spreading on the garden. Put a layer straight on or throw some in your compost to help things along there too.
Horse manure is excellent but can have a dark side. Usually horse manure is collected from mucking out stables, so it can have a lot of urine in it. This is tempered by the sawdust or straw mixed in, but it does need to be weathered and dried for at least a month otherwise the high nitrogen content of the horse urine will burn your plants with urea. They will go madly lanky, overblown and leafy with all the nitrogen, or simply die off if badly affected.
The good old chooks give us chicken manure or poultry manure This is often sold as dried pellets and it’s more concentrated that the other manures as it doesn’t have the organic content in it –’cause what they say about hens’ teeth being rare is true. There ain’t any, so they can’t chew grass and leaves, thus no nice organic digested greenery.
That’s all for now about using different animal manures in gardens. Keep watching (where you tread) as we may be taking a look at using manure from Aardvarks and Zebras another time.

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Animal manure is the foundation of all fertilizer. It is either applied directly to fields and gardens or it is processed to make bagged manure, or other forms of commercial fertilizer around the world. Animal manure is excellent fertilizer and an excellent source of nitrogen and other essential nutrients; but it has its drawbacks, its deficiencies and its costs too.

Steer manure

Steer manure is by far the most abundant animal manure and the most complete; it contains generous amounts of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium, it also contains many of the trace minerals that aid plant growth. Fresh steer manure contains about 3 to 4 percent nitrogen by volume. The older manure is, the less nitrogen it contains. Part of the nitrogen in steer manure is ammonia, which is a gas, and dissipates into the air quite rapidly; it should be tilled in immediately.

But how do you use the stuff, and how do you apply it? One reason commercial fertilizer is so popular is it is in a concentrated form, comes in a nice clean bag and is easy to apply. Steer manure? Not so much. Steer manure is available from dairies, cattle farms and stockyards, and in bags at your local nursery. Some of these might deliver the product to you, but it’s more likely you will have to go get your own. This is a major inconvenience, but it might also be free which makes it a major advantage.

As a rule of thumb, if you decide to apply steer manure to your garden, you would apply about three to four inches of manure on the ground and then till it in as deep as you can. This may seem like a lot of manure, but considering the distribution you’re not getting a huge amount of nitrogen out of it. Only about half of the nitrogen will be released the first year, the rest the following year. By comparison, a few pounds of 34-0-0 commercial fertilizer equates to all this steer manure — and it is available as needed. On the other hand, you will not get organic matter from commercial fertilizer.

Keep in mind that steer manure also contains quite a lot of weed seed that will sprout. Some commercially bagged steer manure is “cleaned” and is free of weeds, but this bagged manure ends up being quite expensive – so that’s your trade-off.

Horse manure

Horse manure has about 1 percent nitrogen by comparison, but it has more “undigested” feed in it. If sawdust is included, much of the nitrogen will be tied up in breaking down this material. Horses don’t digest feed as well as cows do, so much of the hay is just pushed right on through and ends up in manure. If you use horse manure, it’s generally necessary to supplement with a commercial nitrogen fertilizer.

Corn and cantaloupes thriving in manure in Rex’s Garden, Toquerville, Utah | Photo by Rex Jensen, St. George News

Horse manure also contains a fair amount of weed seed, and horse manure is almost always free. Those with horses are delighted to get rid of the stuff but you’ll probably have to go get it yourself. I always make friends with a couple of neighbors who stable horses; when I ask if I may take their manure, I’ve never been refused yet.

Turkey manure and chicken manure

Turkey manure has a nitrogen content of about 9 percent which is triple that of steer manure, so it is “hot” stuff and you must be careful in applying it or you will “burn” your young, tender plants. The Moroni, Utah turkey growers, sell a “turkey mulch” that mixes turkey manure with sawdust or other wood products. Because some of the nitrogen is tied up in breaking down the sawdust, turkey mulch makes a great fertilizer and mulch for the garden. It is expensive and must be trucked in.

However, turkey mulch has very little phosphate, potash or the trace minerals. So what you’re getting is nitrogen and excellent mulch with very little weed seed in it, which is a plus.

All that is true about turkey manure is true with chicken manure also.

Pig manure

Pig manure has about double the nitrogen of steer manure, but because it contains different bacteria than other animal manure it becomes a very slow-release nitrogen. It generally takes two to three years before your soil and plants get all the nitrogen from it, so it is a poor fertilizer for nitrogen. It also contains less organic matter than steer or horse manure.

Cost considerations

Fertilizer doesn’t need to be expensive, but it can be. Commercial fertilizer is not cheap but it’s very convenient and easy to apply. Turkey manure is an excellent fertilizer and compost but is also expensive. If you’re resourceful you can get all the steer manure and/or horse manure you want for free provided you’re willing to invest the labor.

If you choose to buy all the expensive gardening materials, you might well have $14 tomatoes. By being resourceful, you can produce the best tasting and largest tomatoes around — at a fraction of what you will pay in the store.

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Copyright 2012 St. George News.

Rex Jensen is a published writer and former newspaper editor. Rex has been a business owner, an educator, a military helicopter pilot and has a degree in political science.

SOUND GARDENER: More on fertilizer: Steer vs. chicken; what about E-coli?

Sun | Home & Garden

Chris Smith — Mar 18th, 2000

Q: I’ve seen 20-pound bags of composted steer manure and composted poultry manure at local nurseries. I could get five bags of steer for $10 and four bags of poultry for $10. Why does the poultry manure cost more for the same size bag? Which is the better deal?

A: Poultry manure costs more because it has a higher analysis of primary nutrients. Typically, it has about three times the nitrogen and twice the phosphate of steer manure.

If you’re buying the manure primarily as a source of nutrients, four bags of poultry is a better deal than five bags of steer; four bags of poultry will provide 2.4 pounds of nitrogen to the one pound of nitrogen provided by five bags of steer. However, if you’re buying manure primarily as a source of organic matter to improve soil structure, five bags of steer is preferable.

Q: Is composted manure safe? Isn’t there a connection between barnyard manures and E-coli contamination of food crops?

A: There’s some risk of contracting E-coli, Salmonella and Listeria when we apply manure to our food gardens. That risk goes way down when we use composted rather than fresh manure. Infants, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases are considerably more vulnerable than the rest of the population to these food-borne illnesses. They should not eat raw vegetables from manured gardens. Cooking destroys pathogens; that’s the safest way for vulnerable folks to enjoy their vegetables.

Even people at low risk should follow a few common-sense safety rules. Before eating root crops raw from manured soil, they should always wash the produce carefully and peel it. Leaf crops that contact the ground may also be trouble makers. Wash lettuce carefully. If you want still more protection, add a teaspoon of bleach to a gallon of water, soak the leaves for a minute and rinse. When Ann and I were in the Peace Corps, we treated our lettuce this way routinely, knowing that growers in our host country sometimes used night soil.

Q: I’m going to plant my vegetable garden four to six weeks from now. Should I apply fertilizer now so the ground will be fertile when I plant? Or is it better to wait until planting time?

A: Applying fertilizer during our rainy season practically guarantees some of the nutrients will leach or run off. I’d postpone the job until planting time. Then I’d band the fertilizer. Banding is the placement of fertilizer under ground, below or to the side of seeds and transplants.

Chris Smith is a longtime Kitsap County gardener. He cannot answer individual questions but will answer questions of general interest in his column.

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