How Long Does it Take Cow Manure to Compost- A Ultimate Guide?

Cow manure typically takes a month or more to compost fully. Temperature, aeration, and composting methods can impact the duration. Regular turning and maintaining the right moisture levels can speed up the process.

For ages, people have been into the idea of using manure to make soil better. Nowadays, it’s getting even more trendy. But, because of germs, diseases, or pesky weeds, it’s important to turn that manure into compost at just the right temperatures. 

To kick off the composting process, making a compost pile and letting it warm up can span from a few days to several weeks. It’s important to maintain a steady temperature within the pile, ideally between 130 to 150 degrees F, for a minimum of 21 days. This period ensures the elimination of potential pathogens and weed seeds. After the manure has undergone composting, move it to a curing bin. 

What is Composting?

Composting involves combining biological and organic leftovers, containing food scraps, leaf clippings, and animal excrement. These residual materials are collected, stacked or piled, and then mixed and slightly moistened to undergo the decomposition process.

Composting is a method that eliminates pathogens present in animal manure, ensuring safety when directly applied to food crops.

Why Composting?

1. Nutrient-rich soil – Composting is a powerful method of converting organic waste into nutrient-rich soil. 

2. Eliminate Pathogen – Composting is a reliable way to eliminate pathogens and harmful bacteria found in raw organic materials, particularly in animal manure. 

3. Eco-Friendly Gardening – Choosing compost over synthetic fertilizers reduces dependence on chemical intakes. 

4. Cost-Effective Solution – Composting is a cost-effective alternative to purchasing commercial fertilizers. It provides a low-cost, high-level solution for improving soil fertility and supporting healthy plant growth.

How long does it take cow manure to compost?

Composting cow manure typically takes one month or more which can depend upon different aspects. This can include turning compost piles, achieving the correct balance of carbon and nitrogen content, good moisture levels and more.

1. Initial Decomposition Stage

The first step is initiating the composting process, where fresh cow manure is collected and combined with other organic materials. This initial stage, known as the decomposition phase, can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. 

2. Temperature Matters

Achieving the right temperatures is essential in composting cow manure effectively. The compost pile needs to reach and maintain temperatures between 130 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range is essential as this effectively eliminates potential pathogens and weed seeds.

3. Pile size

A bigger pile has the advantage of retaining more heat, leading to increased warmth. The higher temperature boosts the process of decomposition of manure. 

4. Turning

When you regularly turn your compost pile, you’re giving tiny organisms the air they need to break things down. But, be careful not to turn it too much, or it might get too dry for seeds to grow.

Also Read: Is Cow Manure Good For Chili Plants?

5. Pile Moisture Level

Increasing the moisture in a compost pile accelerates decomposition, as microorganisms thrive in a moist environment. As the compost becomes wetter, it generates heat, further accelerating the decomposition process.

With consistent turning carefully every week or two, your compost pile might transform into rich compost within just one or two months. On the flip side, if the pile is left neglected without any turning or proper care, be prepared for a lengthier journey – it could take anywhere from six months to two years to complete composting. The level of mixing and turning directly influences how fast your manure grows into compost.

How to Make Cow Manure Compost?

Transforming cow manure into nutrient-rich compost is a rewarding experience. Here’s your step-by-step guide on how to turn cow manure into nutrient-rich manure for your plants –

1. Collect Materials

Collect fresh cow manure and ensure it’s well-mixed with bedding material. Include other organic materials such as straw, leaves, and kitchen scraps to balance the compost.

2. Build the Compost Pile

Find a spot where you can create a square pile measuring 3 to 4 feet and still have ample space to turn it around. Begin by covering the area with three inches of dry organic material. Over this, distribute two inches of manure. Repeat this layering process until the pile reaches a height of 4 feet. While constructing the pile, sprinkle it lightly with water to maintain moisture. Finish it by adding a layer of soil on top.

3. Turn and Mix

Turn the compost pile every three days and the pile should not be overly moist. This aerates the mix, promoting microbial activity. Do an even blend of green and brown materials.

4. Check Temperature

Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature. It should ideally reach 50-70 degrees C for effective composting.

5. Transfer to the Curing Bin

Once the composting process is complete, transfer the material to a curing bin. This allows for further decomposition and stabilization.

How to Apply Cow Manure Compost?

Cow manure contains a high N-P-K value and is enriched with essential microorganisms that enhance soil health and encourage robust plant growth. 

Composted cow manure introduces a significant amount of organic matter to the soil, offering numerous advantages for plantations and farming. When applying composted manure to the garden, opt for smaller amounts, typically one-fourth to one-half inch deep. In soils with low organic content, thicker applications, up to 1 inch deep, can be good. 

Benefits of Cow Manure

Cow manure is not just your garden’s ordinary waste but it’s a powerful manure that can work wonders. Let’s see what benefits it is having – 

1. Rich Nutrient Source – Cow manure is packed with essential nutrients. It has nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, it provides plants with the nourishment they need for strong growth.

2. Soil Enhancement – The organic matter in cow manure works wonders for soil structure. It improves soil texture, promotes water retention, and enhances drainage.

3. Microbial Boost – The tiny microbial break down organic matter, releasing nutrients and promoting a healthy soil ecosystem. This microbial activity contributes to disease suppression.

4. Weed Suppression – When applied as compost, cow manure acts as a natural weed suppressor. The dense and rich compost layer helps smother weed growth, reducing the competition for nutrients and sunlight.

5. Cost-Effective Fertilizer – Compared to commercial fertilizers, cow manure is a cost-effective solution. It’s often readily available, either from your own livestock or local farms, making it an affordable and efficient fertilizer option.

6. Safe for Plants – Composted cow manure eliminates the risk of burning plants. Unlike fresh manure, composted cow manure provides a gentle and slow release of nutrients.

Also Read: How to Use Cow Manure for Tomatoes?

How to Know if Cow Manure is Composted?

The completed compost has a rich, crumbly texture and an earthy smell. The pile shrinks by about half, and the original organic items are no longer visible. In hot composting, the pile should stop generating heat when it’s ready.

When Should You Apply Cow Manure?

To ensure safety, fresh manure should be prepared at least four months before harvesting crops that have direct contact with the soil. For other edible crops, applying fresh manure should be done a minimum of three months before harvest. 

Additionally, it’s important to note that fresh manure is suitable for application only in the fall, not during the spring or growing season, especially in areas planted with food crops. This method helps reduce health risks and ensures the safe and responsible use of manure in agricultural practices.

Can you use Fresh Cow Manure directly on soil?

Avoid using fresh cow manure directly on soil, especially for crops consumed raw or in direct soil contact. Instead, compost the manure to eliminate pathogens. If applying fresh manure, do so at least four months before harvesting root crops and three months before other edibles. Apply in the fall, not during the growing season, to minimize health risks.

Check this: Is Cow Manure Good for Potatoes?


Turning cow manure into compost can take a month to a year. Well, this can vary as already mentioned above and this will rely upon various factors as well as your right techniques. From building the pile to letting it mature, each step adds nutrients to the soil for healthier plants. So, in a few months, your cow manure transforms into garden gold.

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