Last night I received an email from a thoughtful reader. She’s considering raising a few pigs this spring but is somewhat concerned about all that manure.
Although we all know that manure is invaluable to any farmer or gardener, pig manure has qualities that we need to be mindful of – and I’m not just talking about the smell of it!
Here is the note from Renee regarding Pig Manure:
I need some help. We live in a very rural area, and are about to embark on raising our own pigs for slaughter. We are planning on raising two pigs a year. We are doing our research, and believe we have just about everything figured out (shelter, feeding, watering, etc.); however, we are trying to figure out one minor (with the potential for becoming a major) detail. MANURE! I had initially planned to compost the waste collected from their pen, and then use that compost on our garden; however, I just read that pig waste should NOT be used in composting because of the potential bacteria and disease which could be passed from the manure to my family by eating the crops.
As I said, this is a rural area; however, we do have several neighbors, and some of those neighbors do have water wells..and we are certainly not looking to contaminate any water supplies!
Any advice out there?
What to Do With Pig Manure
I can’t tell you with certainty that you won’t have any troubles, but I can share my own experience and perhaps that will ease your mind. We have only 17 acres and raise at least 2 pigs per year.
We compost the manure under a tarp for a just over a year and use it in the vegetable garden. Throughout that 12-16 month period I ‘turn’ it every month or so. We’ve never been sick from our produce nor contaminated any water sources. We have our water tested every two years here as our well is a ‘dug’ well and very old. I tend to worry about these things as well.
Sometimes I will use pig manure in the flower garden after a short compost (fall clean out of the pig pen to the following spring). It is awesome fertilizer for your flowers when mixed into the existing soil.
My understanding is that in our area the water table sits over 50 feet below. The chance of manure leeching into the water table and still containing harmful substances is null. However your area may be different, your soil less compacted, containing fewer minerals, etc.
Even here I keep the pigs far away and down graded (i.e., down the hill) from the well just to be on the safe side. I always suggest – for region specific questions – to talk to a neighbor who has also raised pigs or ask advice at the local feed store. The ‘old timers’ in your area have a lot of knowledge in their heads and are usually eager to pass that information on to an aspiring farmer!
For Further reading check out the University of Maine’s paper on why not to use pig manure in the garden here: http://www.umext.maine.edu/onlinepubs/htmpubs/2510.htm and conflicting information from the University of Missouri, quoted, for ease of reference, but also found here: http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G6400
“What is the best kind of manure for the garden?
Cattle, horse or swine manures containing straw are the best. Cattle and pig manure contains 5 to 10 pounds of nitrogen per ton. Poultry and sheep manure have higher levels of nitrogen and may supply more nitrogen than needed early in the season. Whatever manure is used, don’t apply fresh manure to the garden before planting. It is preferable to compost the manure for about a year before using. It may also be plowed under in late summer for planting a garden the following spring.”