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Animal manure is often a mixture of animal feces and bedding straw, as in this example from a stable

Manure is organic matter used as organic fertilizer in agriculture. Manures contribute to the fertility of the soil by adding organic matter and nutrients, such as nitrogen, that are trapped by bacteria in the soil. Higher organisms then feed on the fungi and bacteria in a chain of life that comprises the soil food web. It is also a product obtained after decomposition of organic matter like cow-dung which replenishes the soil with essential elements and add humus to the soil.

In the past, the term “manure” included inorganic fertilizers, but this usage is now very rare.


There are three main classes of manures used in soil management:

Animal manures[edit]

Cement reservoirs, one new, and one containing cow manure mixed with water. This is common in rural Hainan Province, China.

Most animal manure is feces. Common forms of animal manure include farmyard manure (FYM) or farm slurry (liquid manure). FYM also contains plant material (often straw), which has been used as bedding for animals and has absorbed the feces and urine. Agricultural manure in liquid form, known as slurry, is produced by more intensive livestock rearing systems where concrete or slats are used, instead of straw bedding. Manure from different animals has different qualities and requires different application rates when used as fertilizer. For example horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, humans (sewage), and guano from seabirds and bats all have different properties.[1] For instance, sheep manure is high in nitrogen and potash, while pig manure is relatively low in both. Horses mainly eat grass and a few weeds so horse manure can contain grass and weed seeds, as horses do not digest seeds the way that cattle do. Chicken litter, coming from a bird, is very concentrated in nitrogen and phosphate and is prized for both properties.

Animal manures may be adulterated or contaminated with other animal products, such as wool (shoddy and other hair), feathers, blood, and bone. Livestock feed can be mixed with the manure due to spillage. For example, chickens are often fed meat and bone meal, an animal product, which can end up becoming mixed with chicken litter.

Compost containing turkey manure and wood chips from bedding material is dried and then applied to pastures for fertilizer.


Compost is the decomposed remnants of organic materials. It is usually of plant origin, but often includes some animal dung or bedding.

Plant manures[edit]

Green manures are crops grown for the express purpose of plowing them in, thus increasing fertility through the incorporation of nutrients and organic matter into the soil. Leguminous plants such as clover are often used for this, as they fix nitrogen using Rhizobia bacteria in specialized nodes in the root structure.

Other types of plant matter used as manure include the contents of the rumens of slaughtered ruminants, spent hops (left over from brewing beer) and seaweed.

Uses of manure[edit]

Manure on a wall

Animal dung has been used for centuries as a fertilizer for farming, as it improves the soil structure (aggregation), so that it holds more nutrients and water, and becomes more fertile. Animal manure also encourages soil microbial activity, which promotes the soil's trace mineral supply, improving plant nutrition. It also contains some nitrogen and other nutrients that assist the growth of plants.

Manures with a particularly unpleasant odor (such as human sewage or slurry from intensive pig farming) are usually knifed (injected) directly into the soil to reduce release of the odor. Manure from pigs and cattle is usually spread on fields using a manure spreader. Due to the relatively lower level of proteins in vegetable matter, herbivore manure has a milder smell than the dung of carnivores or omnivores. However, herbivore slurry that has undergone anaerobic fermentation may develop more unpleasant odors, and this can be a problem in some agricultural regions. Poultry droppings are harmful to plants when fresh but, after a period of composting, are valuable fertilizers.

Manure is also commercially composted and bagged and sold retail as a soil amendment. Sometimes even human sewage sludge is used, as is the case for Dillo Dirt, a product that has been sold by the city of Austin, Texas municipal wastewater department since 1989.


Manure generates heat as it decomposes, and it is possible for manure to ignite spontaneously if stored in a very large pile.[2] Once such a large pile of manure is burning, it will foul the air over a wide area and require considerable effort to extinguish. Therefore, large feedlots must take care to ensure that piles of fresh manure do not get excessively large. There is no serious risk of spontaneous combustion in smaller operations.[citation needed]

There is also a risk of insects carrying feces to food and water supplies, making them unsuitable for human consumption.

Livestock antibiotics[edit]

In 2007, a University of Minnesota study[3] indicated that foods such as corn, lettuce, and potatoes have been found to accumulate antibiotics from soils spread with animal manure that contains these drugs.

Organic foods may be much more or much less likely to contain antibiotics, depending on their sources and treatment of manure. For instance, by Soil Association Standard 4.7.38, most organic arable farmers either have their own supply of manure (which would, therefore, not normally contain drug residues) or else rely on green manure crops for the extra fertility (if any nonorganic manure is used by organic farmers, then it usually has to be rotted or composted to degrade any residues of drugs and eliminate any pathogenic bacteria — Standard 4.7.38, Soil Association organic farming standards). On the other hand, as found in the University of Minnesota study, the non-usage of artificial fertilizers, and resulting exclusive use of manure as fertilizer, by organic farmers can result in significantly greater accumulations of antibiotics in organic foods.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Manure". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  2. ^ "Spontaneous Combustion of Manure Starts 200-Acre Blaze 1/08/07 |". abc7.com. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  3. ^ a b staff (2007-07-12). "Livestock Antibiotics Can End Up in Human Foods". Ens-newswire.com. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Winterhalder, B., R. Larsen, and R. B. Thomas. (1974). "Dung as an essential resource in a highland Peruvian community". Human Ecology 2 (2): 89–104. doi:10.1007/BF01558115. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manure — Please support Wikipedia.
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12253 news items

Raw Story

Medical News Today
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 00:18:45 -0700

Previously unidentified antibiotic resistance genes have been discovered in the bacteria of dairy cows' guts. Commonly used as a farm soil fertilizer, cow manure could aid in transferring this bacteria to soil where food is grown for human consumption ...
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 19:21:05 -0700

ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. (April 22, 2014)– Should a farm that had a massive manure spill earlier this year keep its state certification promoting environmental protections? That will depend on what the DEQ and the Michigan Department of Agriculture ...
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 09:41:15 -0700

But a recent study has found that many samples of manure hold bacteria with antibiotic-resistant genes, which originate in the bovine gastrointestinal system. The authors speculate the resistance may transfer from the manure into the soil being ...
Statesman Journal
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 03:12:24 -0700

Question: I got a load of “composted” horse manure for my garden from my friend. It looks to me that it isn't really composted all the way as there are “apples” of manure in it. Can I just put it in my garden and plant right in it or is there something ...
GMA News
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 19:03:45 -0700

WASHINGTON, USA - Cow manure is commonly used to fertilize vegetable crops, and a US study out Tuesday found it contains a high number of genes that can fuel resistance to antibiotics. These genes come from the cows' gut bacteria, and while none ...


WQAD.com -- Quad Cities News & Weather from WQAD
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:48:04 -0700

And what goes in, must come out. “The more they eat, the more energy we produce,” he said. Sievers looks at manure and sees green energy. That's why he invested $7 million to convert cow pies into clean power for Alliant Energy. “There's nothing that ...

NBC 7 San Diego

U-T San Diego
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 18:30:00 -0700

The citations were sent to Stuck in the Rough LLC and its owner, Michael Schlesinger, as well as to the owner of an egg ranch that supplied the manure, said Bob Kard, the director of the county's Air Pollution Control District. Kard said inspectors ...
Zee News
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 03:52:30 -0700

Washington: Manure from dairy cows, which is commonly used as a farm soil fertiliser, contains a surprising number of genes that can fuel resistance to antibiotics, a new study has warned. The findings suggest that cow manure is a potential source of ...

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