At the Harduf Cow-Shed and dairy farm, which were founded and managed according to organic principles from their very beginning, we saw the cow-shed itself as the center of the agricultural activity as such, and the cow – as its heart. We treated the cows' manure as a precious gift which enables the farm to exist and live in a good and right way. Guided by this approach, we searched in recent years for the right way of handling this precious gift. We passed a long way, thinking and experimenting, aiming at improving the way we work with the manure and the compost.
Today, although we are certainly not at the end of this journey, we have found a work method which answers a large part of the problems which faced us in our work. I shall not go into the different steps on our way, but describe the method itself, which is the one we use in our work today, and which in my opinion can be very easily implemented in any cow-shed, without any financial investments – on the contrary, it can actually save on regular expenses.
Having built over time, a deep and dry bedding, at least 3o cm deep, in the entire cow-shed, we began to distribute all the liquid manure from the cows' waiting parlour and from the concrete treading areas onto the bedding. We do this every day using the big loader. After the distribution of the liquid manure, we cultivate mechanically as deeply as possible, the deeper the better. Deep cultivation uses a large quantity of manure for the drying of the wet manure. The daily cultivation is very important, making the decompostation process aerobic rather than anaerobic, thus preventing the development of unhealthy bacteria.
In winter we cultivate regularly too, once or twice a day. Each cultivation helps dry the bedding. In summer, one can bring wet manure to dry areas and dry manure from the drier places to the wet areas in the cow-shed.
At the end of each day, the entire bedding where the cows lie is cultivated, and there is no liquid manure lying in any of the concrete manure collection pits in the entire cow-shed.
Owing to the process of daily cultivation, the liquid manure is mixed with the bedding manure, making the cows' bedding into a compost bedding. When we need compost for the fields, we take it from this compost bedding inside the cow-shed and use is to nourish the fields.
Before the rains begin, we bring in the manure from the outer yards into the shaded area, for the winter. During the whole year, we never take fresh manure out of the cow-shed. Now that we have been using this method for over a year, we have come to see that the cow-shed is also the manure-processing site, and thus the cows lie on a pleasant bedding made of nice soft and dry compost. The cow-shed's size must be large enough to contain all the cows' excretions and yet remain dry. In my experience, it doesn't have to be larger than the size generally recommended in the dairy farming branch.
To Sum Up:
The manure given to us by the cow is a precious resource, first – to the cow-shed, as a dry and pleasant bedding for the cows, and next – for the fields, as high-quality manure.
In addition to that, we also benefit from the great financial saving made on the transportation of drying materials for the bedding as well as on transporting the manure from the cow-sheds to the compost-sites. This procedure results in a much more ecological management of the cow-shed and dairy farm.