Small-scale composting of horse manure mixed with wood shavings

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8 Scopus citations


There is an increased interest in composting manure on small horse farms (1-5 horses). It is known that simple backyard, food waste composters do not efficiently reduce pathogens due to their small scale. However, it was not clear if small-scale manure composting on horse farms could ensure pathogen reduction during all seasons. Furthermore, because of potential human health concerns, the release of Aspergillus fumigatus on small horse farms was of interest. The objective of this study was to evaluate pathogen reduction in a simple shed composter and the release of Aspergillus fumigatus emissions from fall to spring under typical farm operational conditions. Horse manure mixed with wood shavings (bedding) was composted for 4-8 weeks in the fall, winter, early spring and late spring. Fecal streptococci and eggs of strongyles, which are a major recognized health concern for horses, were used as pathogen indicator organisms. Temperatures increased in all composting piles during all seasons, but tended to be higher in warmer weather. After 4 weeks, the fecal streptococci reduction was about 10- to 100-fold and, after 8 weeks, about 100- to 1000-fold. There was some effect of season on fecal streptococci levels, with the higher composting temperatures appearing to provide greater reductions. Strongyle eggs in this study were very low and were reduced over time. Levels of viable A. fumigatus spores during turning ranged from 12-2084 CFU m−3, while background levels ranged between 6 - 300 CFU m−3. Overall, this study indicates that composting horse manure mixed with wood shavings reduces pathogens. A. fumigatus levels are elevated during turning, but the levels are lower than those found at sewage sludge/municipal solid waste composting facilities or inside barns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-141
Number of pages10
JournalCompost Science and Utilization
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Soil Science


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