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Dung heap management and removal


The dung heap shown in the picture is part of a heap removed from a medium size livery yard in mid May.

The heap was originally started about a year ago, well sited and placed on fairly hard ground.

Mostly straw based with very little rubbish,  (baler twine, plastic bags, etc) However, because the heap was never covered, it dried out and was never allowed to start breaking down.  Consequently a large proportion of the heap is still as it was a year ago. Therefore removal costs were also higher than necessary.

Because we need moisture to help decomposition we didn’t cover the heap until it had got wet from a good rain shower, which we had the day after the photo was taken.

Or so we thought. It rained for most of the next week so it was almost the last week of May before we covered the heap with old tarpaulins to retain the moisture allowing the fermentation heat to get started. The temperature achieved inside a cooking heap is really quite amazing and is far higher than any horse or for that matter livestock parasite can cope with.

On a month to month basis we shall document the progress of this particular heap to show what is possible and how much good management can save in removal costs.  In fact we would expect that within four to five months this heap should only be a quarter or less of its original volume whilst also losing about a third of its original weight.

When it comes to moving the heap from the stable, the owner or tenant now has to be careful who they get to move it and to be sure they know where it’s going.

In January of this year the Environmental Agency having first considered horse dung “waste” and subject to the usual waste laws, de-regulated it, but still requires anyone removing that waste to be a registered waste carrier. Further, the waste producer (the stable owner), still has to be able to prove where the waste has gone, therefore requiring the carrier of the waste to issue a consignment note for every load removed from that stables. That note states where the waste  came from, who the carrier was, and where the waste is going to. As a rule there are three copies of this consignment note. The top copy goes to the stable owner or tenant, the second copy goes to the owner of the site receiving  the dung, and the last copy has to be kept by the haulage contactor.

As mentioned before, achieving a high temperature in order to eradicate parasites plays an important role should it be the intention to spread the manure heap on horse pastures to replace missing Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) (the building blocks of plant life),  which grazing animals take from forage but return in their droppings, which in turn usually get picked up, into the wheel barrow and onto the dung heap, effectively removing it from the soil. The other main nutrient, nitrogen (N) taken up by the grazing animal is actually to a small extent returned in their urine. Nitrogen can also be produced in some pasture plants such a clovers and legumes which pass it into the soil to the benefit of other plants.


We have now had this heap covered for about three weeks and despite the problem that the wind keeps getting under the cover and airing it, the temperature only about 100mm within the heap (see photo) is already hot enough to bath in (should you so wish) and while there must have been action taking place before we moved it, this heap is well on its way to decomposition.

Our trials in the regeneration of vegetable based materials have left us with a requirement for good clean straw based stable manure to the extent that at the moment we will remove it for just the cost of running the trucks.

Well rotted clean straw based manure, if we are able to process on site, will be removed at an even lower cost as we are able to use this in our present activities.

A good sign that a composting material has reached breakdown is activity of worms very  evident within a heap, which can only happen when the temperature has lowered again.

By next month we will have taken temperature readings within this heap, and whilst it won’t be hot enough to boil a kettle it should be too hot to keep your hand in.


Abbey Waste Management Ltd

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