Feeding Worms Cow Manure

In February of 2013 I acquired two yearling heifers: one of the Highland breed and the other of the Galloway breed. Neither had received vaccinations that I know of. I turned them out in 3 acres of lush pasture that no animals had been on for 12 years. I do not feed them grain, nor do I intend to. Therefore, the manure they produce I consider to be free of chemicals, fungicides, etc.
Sometime later, when one of the bovines dropped a cow pie in exactly the wrong place–directly in front of the gate where I would step, I grabbed a shovel. I decided to place the wet smelly thing in one of my worm bins–one of those small stack-able plastic tray-type bins. I layed it on top of an almost full tray. Over a period of about a month I observed the progress the worms made with their pie.
They loved it!
Due to the ammonia, I am not sure how much fresh manure the worms could handle at any given time, but after more observations, I have concluded that using manure is one of the fastest ways to increase the population of your Eisenia fetida (red wiggler) composting worms.
In Compost Tea Making, I discussed feeding worms kitchen scraps. It’s certainly beneficial for the worms to have a broad range of food available–a microbial smorgasbord. However, using only kitchen scraps I have had problems with mold, resulting in worm die-off. I now think that the addition of some clean manure into the blend helps them to process all of their food better. I realize this is well tread ground I walk, but I am adding it as an update to the worm growing chapter in Compost Tea Making.
What do you think?
Marc

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6 Responses to Feeding Worms Cow Manure

  1. Kirsty says:

    Hi, I’ve bought your book and am enjoying it and I just acquired a new wormery. We already have a dog poo composting wormery, and I wondered what you thought of those? I never really know what to do with the worm castings from it. The new wormery is intended primarily for composting food scraps but we also have two rescue rabbits, do you think rabbit manure would be a good addition to a wormery? I make compost tea with our rabbit poo already but I don’t know if that’s actually a good idea? Thanks, Kirsty

    • adminelf777 says:

      Kirsty
      Why not? The worms can process some really ripe stuff. I did that whole test with wet fresh cow manure on top and they gobbled it up from the underside of the parties. You could certainly use it on landscaping plants at least. As for the rabbit, that’s primo, and should make excellent compost tea.
      Perhaps I am falling behind here, because you are introducing the term “wormery” to me. Thanks. I like it.
      Marc

      • Kirsty says:

        I’m in Scotland, wormery is a term we use here in the UK, I didn’t realise you didn’t use it too, interesting. I am just starting off the new wormery today. will add some rabbit poo and see what happens! I’m tempted to try a large-scale wormery in an old bath, we have a perfect shed for the worms for overwinter, and I’d like to go bigger scale, but starting small to see if I can keep them alive first! Just bought my first effective micro-organisms and some molasses too. So much to learn and experiment with.

        • adminelf777 says:

          Kirsty
          I like the term “Wormery”. It suggests a secure, well-loved home. I will use that here now. A bathtub (as they are referred to in the US) is a good idea. Small enough to be controllable. As I will illustrate below, it’s a good idea to have multiple bins.
          I almost lost all of my worms! I used most of my big pile (about 1 ton) and let what was left there get too dry. So yesterday I dug into my backup bins (about the size of a bath) and found some survivors on the bottom. I put those in the big pile, added 1/2 ton of manure, some EM1 and a little lime, and have the sprinkler on it all now. I hate it when that happens!
          The small bins are the ones in which I have experimented with adding fresh wet cow pies to. The worms come up underneath the pies and feed. Sometimes I let my Highland, and Low-line Angus cross breeds into the little paddock where the bins are and then shovel their gifts into the bins so I won’t step on them.
          My Highland cow is the most gorgeous I have seen of that breed. Her name is “Princess”. So her daughters are: Princess Cassandra, Princess Leia, and Princess Victoria. The males/steers are all just generic “Prince”.
          Mark

          • Kirsty says:

            oooh, you have Scottish cows! we’re in the highlands! got highland cows here too, natives. Hope you rescue your worms, that’s my worry, killing them by forgetting them! And yes I have a record on that front. I just bought my first bottle of EM1, different brand than you use as I couldn’t source that brand here in Scotland, perhaps I’ll try a little in our wormeries too. With rabbit poo compost tea, would you aerate it? I have just been leaving it in rain water to soak for a week. I feel so confused with compost teas as there is so much different advice out there. But am trying to read your book again and take notes properly. My roses are really responding though to the rabbit poo tea … I grow cut flowers on a small scale for sale, so its mostly flowers here, although also fruit and herbs and some veg for us too. Hope its ok to be commenting and asking questions so much! Kirsty

          • adminelf777 says:

            Kirsty
            Remember you can make more EM1 easily with a little of what you have and some molasses. Whatever you brew it in somehow forms an adhesive on the glass, rendering it unusable for anything else, unless maybe an open top jar that you could really get in and scrub. I use a 5 gallon carboy that now dedicated for it.
            Yes I am a fan of aeration for the compost tea. It makes sense biologically to promote the aerobic critters instead of the anaerobics. Here my rainwater is about 5.83pH so I stopped using it. My well water is 6.85pH. Also, I am about 20 miles into the country from Tacoma/Olympia so there is a bit of pollution in the air at times.

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