Manure In Compost Soil

manure hay

Q: We have a new compost bin. We feed our horses and donkeys hay during the winter. It falls to the ground and is soiled with manure and urine from these animals. Is it okay to use this hay in compost bins for my vegetable and flower gardens? 

A: The particular E. coli associated with human disease is just one of hundreds of strains of this bacteria. Most are harmless; some are necessary for good digestive health. Composting lowers the amount of E. coli in manure but does not eliminate it. Mixing the composted manure in the soil lowers E. coli even further but no manure can be considered to be E. coli – free. Despite that, I think the minute risk of sickness is an acceptable trade-off for the health benefits of fresh vegetables. In my opinion, mixing composted manure into the soil before planting does not increase disease risk, particularly if you wash the produce thoroughly before eating.

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