Monday, April 19, 2010

Composting alpaca waste

I've found there are two types of compost that I get from our alpaca farm: poop and straw/hay refuse. The poop is obvious and one farms plan for. The hay/straw refuse is one I didn't realize we'd have so much of. Some of it is bedding from the shelters over the winter. Some of it is the stalkier hay that the alpacas eat around (they eat the good stuff and push the rest on the ground). We also put straw in our trailer during long rides, but then when we clean that out we have that straw too.

This past weekend I cleaned up a lot of the straw/hay refuse. I lost count of how many wheel barrows full I lugged around of the stuff.

Some of the straw/hay refuse I use in our pastures. We have pure sand soil that does not grow grass well. If I put hay/straw on the ground, it helps the ground retain water and the straw/hay decomposes into soil that is more friendly to grass. I do this with the dry straw/hay. Now the stuff that is wet and especially the straw/hay that is mixed in with alpaca poop (like the bedding in the barn where they poop) I don't put in the pasture. That we make into a compost.

It's not hard to compost. All you need is the items to compost, water (if it's too dry it won't decompose, but too wet won't work either, so some moisture is necessary), and if you want it like dirt, time for it to decompose. Usual rules to composting include adding the right amount of "green" and "brown" items. For my kitchen compost container, I do adhere to these rules. For our alpaca poop piles, I don't bother. It will compost into pure alpaca poop (the best fertilizer) all on it's own. And I actually prefer this to be pure, so that it is the most potent fertilizer. Alpaca poop is nice in that you can use it fresh. Some animal manure cannot be used fresh because it will "burn" plants. This is not true with alpaca poop. Ideal for putting in new grass pastures would be to put down alpaca poop, rototill it in the ground, add grass seed, then put the straw/hay refuse on top. For my flowerbeds, I dig a hole, put in a big scoop of alpaca poop, then plant the plant on top. My plants grow very well doing this.

Our compost area has a poop side, and a hay/straw/poop side. This way, if you want pure alpaca poop fertilizer, we have it. If you want to add in hay/straw we can do that too. We leave the piles open to natural elements because that is what helps it decompose the best. I left the wheel barrow in the picture to give perspective on the size of the piles. I have a hard time making the piles higher, I tend to go wider, but over time I can wheel on top and add a layer. I am on my second layer with the straw/hay piles.

Compost poop pile, it starts near the beginning of this picture and goes to the wheelbarrow:

The start of my second layer of straw/hay compost:

Last year when we put in a garden we just took wheel barrows full of the poop and dumped it into our garden area. Then we rototilled it in. Than planted plants/seeds as directed. This worked very well.

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