Everything Manure: More On Handling Manure
I heard from a customer that while he was out shoveling manure off of a pasture (not his own) his children were out there running around barefoot in that pasture. Manure is an excellent garden and compost additive. It will bring biological life, tilth, micro and macro nutrients to your soil. It can also bring bacteria and parasitic organisms from the bodies of the livestock from which it came. I decided I should write some more on handling manure.
Diseases that humans can catch from animals are called Zoonoses.
While only a few diseases can be acquired while handling manure it is wise to handle manure carefully, none of the diseases we can contract from handling manure incautiously are desirable. Composting manure is one of the things we do to render it harmless. High temperatures in the thermophilic stage of composting, invertebrates of the compost pile, and compost organisms work to effectively destroy pathogens in manure.
Some of the safety precautions I use while handling manure include wearing long jeans, washable garden shoes, and gloves that I only use for handling manure. If I am shoveling chicken manure I wear a dust mask too. I don’t harvest vegetables in the same clothes I wore for handling manure, and after the manure handling is done the dirty clothes are removed to the laundry, and I shower. Finally I always thoroughly wash the vegetables I harvest at harvest time, and again before I use them if they have spent more than a day in a bag in the fridge.
I tend to think that this information is well known and common knowledge, and yet I find evidence that this information is anything but obvious. People often equate the idea of natural or organic growing with harmlessness. Though manuring compost and soil can be perfectly safe, and is a safe bet compared with a lifetime of exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers, it can be anything but harmless if underestimated and mishandled.
Healthy livestock are less likely to carry parasites and diseases that might be in their manure, but we aren’t always aware of the health of the livestock when we are clearing off the pasture or barns at a ranch or farm. It is unwise to bet your health on such things. Always using precautions creates healthy manure handling habits, and that is a good thing.
Livestock manure brings good things to our soil so that we can grow great food, but don’t forget what it is. I have been safely handling livestock manures for at least 20 years. I am comfortable with the precautions I take, and I enjoy the benefits of having manure to add to my compost. Can you make compost and great soil without any manure additives? Absolutely. The finest blackest compost I have ever seen is made with just leaves and vegetable wastes from the kitchen.