What do you do with all the poo the animals produce?

Each week, we ask you to share your questions about farming, food or Sacrewell with us on Facebook. The person who writes the best question wins a free tractor ride for a child and accompanying adult, as well as having their question answered on our website. This question came from Lindsey McRury:

Dealing with the poo that our animals produce is a daily task at Sacrewell farm, so we’re very glad to be asked this question. If you’d like to give us a hand with mucking out the stables, poo-picking in the goat paddocks or cleaning out the chicken coop, we’re always happy to recruit new volunteers!

Animal excrement is full of amazing organic matter so makes great fertiliser. However, it can also contain things which we don’t want to pass back into the food chain so it must be treated with care. The poo produced at Sacrewell all makes its way to our large muck heap in a field, away from the main visitor route, where it sits for around a year. During this time, insects, microorganisms and bacteria will break down the poo, releasing the nutrients that help the plants to grow and reducing the risk of any pathogens or diseases being passed on.

The resulting, beautiful compost is then spread onto the fields farmed by Riverford, helping their delicious organic vegetables to grow.

If you’re interested in turning your own animal poo into compost, there are a few things to consider. Herbivores, such as horses and cows, produce poo with nutrients in the right ratio for most plants to thrive, whilst omnivores such as pigs and chickens tend to produce poo with a very high nitrogen content. This needs to be left to break down for longer and mixed with other materials, such as the straw from animal bedding, to ensure the right balance of nutrients for the plants to grow. Carnivores, such as cats and dogs, produce poo that is likely to contain pathogens that will make humans sick, so we don’t recommend using carnivore poo for composting.