Manure and Its Uses

Manure sales are a critical aspect of our year round income, while wool sells during winter with some consistency; it is at most a supplemental source of income. The other large source of income is selling rams and lambs, while this is often our largest sales for the year; they are generally one off events and nothing that can be relied upon.  Typically lamb sales are once or twice a year, unless a stray buyer or trade comes along.

It is manure sales that offer a relatively consistent sales record; typically it sells year round, though perhaps more during the easing of winter and through the spring. For this reason it is something we spend a great deal of time modifying our methods and product line. Recently we introduced the selling of manure directly through this website, this is primarily because the on-line retail sites are expensive (fees), arrogant and arbitrary in dealing with sellers. Their policies and fees directly increase the costs we must charge, which hampers sales (higher price point), it also increases our expenses which harm our animals. Typically when we have good sales of wool and manure, or sell off lambs, the surplus is largely used to purchase more and better feed, improve structures, and provide the ewes with special treats, like carrots and grains.

The collection, sorting and processing of manure is labor intensive; it is also time consuming, for it must be thoroughly dried before storing or selling. Living in Arizona this makes it easier, typically about a week to make it stable for shipping and storage, but we try to sun it for two weeks or longer. Generally the manure is collected in two ways, the first method is sweeping or raking out the sheep pens and areas they sun themselves. Sheep like to group together in certain areas, shady in summer and wind breaks in spring and fall, sometimes in shelters during summer and winter. While this is a good method when a large amount of manure is needed, it is also labor intensive when sorting begins. The other method is collecting small amounts daily, typically when we feed them we go around and collect piles of generally sorted manure. This requires far less sorting and is especially useful for collecting “bulk” manure as it is generally less crushed or mixed with debris. Fresh manure is not unpleasant, it has no strong odor (sulfides are shed in growth of wool) and often it is dry when collected because it dries very quickly in the sun (about 30 minutes to lose any surface moisture). Sheep are rather clean and picky eaters, primarily alfalfa and other vegetable matter, like carrots, grains can upset their stomachs, so we limit them (though they love grain and four-way), so very little unpleasant material is ingested to produce a foul odor or disgusting experience. Basically they are blackened pellets of digested alfalfa, which accounts for their color when crushed.

On occasion we get questions regarding the use of manure in gardening, we extensively garden with our sheep manure ourselves, growing primarily strawberries, asparagus and garlic, but every year we do annuals (perennials in some areas) like okra, tomatoes, broccoli and squash too. Naturally, we are great advocates of the practice of using all natural sheep manure! Using sheep manure has many advantages over other alternatives and relatively few disadvantages. Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of sheep manure is its compact and clean nature; it is easily the cleanest, least revolting “natural” manure available. Not only do sheep shed their nasty smelling sulfides in the production of wool, it comes in a clean utilitarian form, quick-drying compact pellets that are easy to dry, transport and utilize in the garden.

If that isn’t enough, sheep manure generally doesn’t need much aging or special preparation; it comes ready-made for application. Generally, sheep manure takes about a week or two to thoroughly dry in Arizona’s sunny and arid environment. Properly raised sheep, meaning largely pen fed with alfalfa as ours are, which have no exposure to other animals or toxic chemicals (fertilizers, tainted water or medications) do not even require drying, though we do in all cases dry our manure for two weeks because of the need to store large quantities and for shipping purposes. Manure will mold if it is not thoroughly dried, – if properly dried manure will store for many months, but great care needs to be taken to monitor inventory. Even a small introduction of “moist” manure can contaminate the driest manure, ruining an entire batch.

As far as I am aware, no other manure can claim such a distinction; – clean, the mildest of odors, dry handling with no mess or unpleasantry, ease of storage and transport.

Then we come to the meat and potatoes of the argument in favor of using sheep manure, its bang per pound. According to the USDA, sheep manure is significantly superior to horse and cattle manure in nitrogen, phosphorous, potash and potassium. Further, it is said that sheep raised in our method, pen fed with alfalfa and grain, will have higher nutrient content.

Some concluding thoughts regarding practices; because sheep manure is compact and robust, it is best used in applications where time to decompose is available, so when buying sheep manure consider what your application will be and how long you have before use. We sell our manure in three forms:

Straight bulk is manure thoroughly sorted and dried. This is packaged for those that have the most time and or for special applications like teas or long-term applications (slow release) or storage. It tends to be the driest and most compact in nutrients and is preferred by small applicators like apartments or small gardeners or as a supplement.

Crushed manure has undergone at least two quick sortings (the more sorting steps the freer of debris and time involved); it is basically straight bulk manure crushed by hand. Ideal for immediate use and mixing with compost or other soil amendments. Generally it is manure broken down to a useable form by crushing its hard outer shell.

Finely crushed manure is crushed manure pulverized into a powder like form mechanically, basically hand crushed manure finely ground into a powder like consistency. This makes a good supplement for container gardens or for worm farming.

The introduction of manure sales through this website is designed to support our animals and provide them with a healthier and happier lifestyle. To provide the same high quality product that we have sold through on-line retailers (for over 8 years) at a cheaper cost by eliminating the middleman who adds nothing to justify their participation or involvement. For those that will buy directly we will pass on much of the 10-25% savings that is recovered by eliminating these middlemen. Through this website we are offering three products (as per above) in three sizes, these are all generic sized to accommodate USPS flat rate boxes, however we are not limited to them. They are simply handy uniformed sizes that we use most often. We can take direct orders in any size (any order over 50 lbs will take longer, we have done orders over 100 lbs several times, but each large order time frame depends upon inventory and distance), so inquire if you have an interest in larger orders or are close by. Because distance (your location in relation to ours) makes such a significant difference (it can double or triple postage) we often can sell larger orders cheaper than smaller orders.

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