With summer just around the corner, we have been inundated with orders for manure, with just a month into our busy season we have exhausted a significant amount of our processed inventory accumulated over the winter. Currently we are working through the bulk manure we have only roughly sorted and are focusing on collection and drying new inventory.
While working through this process the mind wanders and it occurred to me to that we should do a blog post on how customers can properly store manure to last beyond immediate use, for this is not always as obvious as it seems… the process of collection and sorting is always changing, over the last decade we have changed how we collect, sort and process manure many times, primarily trying to find the finished product that would offer the most appeal with the least work. Perhaps the most problematic step in the process is the drying and storing, we are blessed with ideal weather and climate for this process, perhaps no better place in the United States exists. We have extremely low humidity, vast amounts of sun, and short rainy seasons. These factors make this type of product practical here, for someone in a more humid environment the drying and storage would be far more problematic.
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.
At various times the subject of garden fertilization using sheep manure comes our way; naturally, we are great advocates of the practice! Using sheep manure has many advantages over other alternatives and a relative 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.