My husband and I are busy building our raised garden beds for our spring vegetable garden, and I’m far more excited than I really should be to shovel out wheelbarrows full of our little stash of goat poop to prepare and fill our raised beds.
Since I’m fairly new to this whole composting thing, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that goat manure is pretty much the perfect animal manure for beginners and a “you can’t go wrong” remedy for novice gardens.
The naturally dry goat pellets are not only easy to collect with a standard mini rake and trash scooper, but they are far less messy than many other types of manure. Goat feces does not attract flies or breed maggots and (my favorite) it doesn’t really smell! There really is no off-putting learning curve to collecting and composting goat poop!
Throughout the week I sweep up the goat pen area and dump the dry goat pellets in the compost bin, and once a week I do a “deep cleaning” and rake up and change out all the straw bedding and leftover alfalfa in the feeding trough. With the compost bin located right over the fence, it’s seriously the easiest and quickest (and oddly pleasant) chore in the goat barn. Scoop, dump, and voila! DONE!
Another reason why goat manure is the perfect starter compost, is because goat droppings can be used in nearly any type of garden IMMEDIATELY without having to wait for a “breaking down” compost period. You can just use it as is on any plants in your garden – including flowering plants, herbs, vegetables, fruit trees and ornamental landscaping plants. Unlike other animal droppings, goat manure will not “burn” your plants when directly applied.
But when left to break down into compost, goat manure in garden beds can create the optimal growing conditions for your plants. Composted manure can add nutrients to the soil, promote healthier plant growth, and increase crop yields without the use of harmful chemicals.
The Chemical Composition of Goat Manure
Ultimately, goat manure helps to build up the organic matter content in the soil and adds nutrients, increases microbial activity, and improves drainage in heavy soils and moisture retention in sandy soils.
Goat manure contains adequate amounts of the nutrients that plants need for optimal growth, especially when used straw bedding is included in the mix. As urine collects in goat droppings and bedding, the manure retains more nitrogen, thus increasing its fertilizing potency.
Goat manure is also ideal for raised beds and starter gardens, as it is far higher in nitrogen than horse and cow manures – which is what you would buy at a run of the mill home improvement store. According to the Ohio State University Extension, on average, goat manure has 22 pounds of nitrogen in 1 ton, while cow manure has only 10 pounds of nitrogen per 1 ton.
Of course, the final and overall composition of goat manure depends on the quality and content of the goat feed. Well-fed dairy goats should produce more and better feces than other goats. (We keep our goats on an organic, well balanced diets with no artificial ingredients, hormones, antibiotics, fillers or additives.) Goat feces contains not only feed residues but endogenous substances from the goat’s intestinal tract too, so it’s important to only use manure from healthy goats.
Swedish research established that goats excrete daily, regardless of feed type, a minimum of 34g protein, 8g fat and 13g carbohydrates for each 2.2 pounds feed dry matter eaten. Goat feces, used bedding and wasted feed can average 2 to 3 pounds per day for a single Nigerian Dwarf goat, with a possible composition rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime.
How to Use Goat Manure in Your Garden
As I mentioned above, making your own compost from goat manure is not hard, messy or smelly. Finished compost is dry and very rich. I was scooping out handfuls of my recent compost / manure stash by hand to spread in my raised garden beds (with gloves on of course, don’t look at me like that!) and it wasn’t any harder or smellier than dealing with a bag of potting soil.
To get goat manure composting, simply set up your composting device in a convenient location to your goat pen. For goat droppings, the most convenient compost pile would be a bin-type structure. (I use a vintage citrus crate for my bin, you can read more about my compost bin structure by clicking here.)
When you clean out your goat pen, you can also mix the manure in with other organic materials such as grass clippings, leaves, straw, etc. If it’s extremely hot or dry outside, you can keep the compost moist by periodically hosing it down and occasionally stirring the pile to mix everything together and increase airflow, which helps break it down faster.
Depending on your compost pile size, a total breakdown to soil consistency compost can take weeks or months. Keep in mind that the smaller the pile, the faster it will decompose. The best goat compost for direct application is well-aged that’s been sitting for at least six months, but you can use manure that is hours old by tilling it into pre-existing soil. The pellets are easy to spread and till into the garden.
For annual garden upkeep, simply spread 1 to 2 inches of manure on established beds and till under. Goat manure as an annual fertilizer will help produce healthier plants and increased crop yields.
Overall, goat manure makes an excellent soil conditioner for new gardens, and helps to maintain and enrich established gardens. It improves the soil texture so it uses water more efficiently and allows more oxygen to reach the plants’ roots.
If you have a garden, it’s well worth rooting out sources goat manure – and if you have goats AND a garden, it’s just downright foolish NOT to use this amazingly natural source of garden enrichment and nutrition!