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Difference Between Manure and Compost

Manure and compost are two of the best fertilizers to grow a healthy, long-lasting garden. What makes them even better is the fact that you don’t have to buy any additional supplies; Just use whatever scraps you have at home. However, there are many do’s and don’ts of both choices.

The main difference between manure and compost is in their composition and preparation. Manure is organic matter, primarily animal feces, used as fertilizer, while compost is decomposed organic material from various sources, including kitchen scraps and yard waste, used to enrich soil.

Manure, being primarily animal waste, is rich in nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, but it can contain pathogens and weed seeds. It should be well-composted or aged before use to avoid harming plants. Compost, on the other hand, is more balanced in nutrients and typically free of harmful pathogens and seeds due to the heat generated during the composting process, making it safer and more beneficial for immediate use in gardens.

Another distinction lies in their impact on soil structure and health. Manure can improve soil fertility quickly but may lead to nutrient imbalances or soil salinity if not used correctly. Compost, being more thoroughly decomposed, not only adds nutrients but also enhances soil structure, water retention, and microbial activity, making it a more sustainable choice for long-term soil health improvement.

Throughout this article, you’ll learn the following:

  • The difference between manure and compost
  • Pros and cons of each
  • What you can and can’t use
  • How to make a good mixture of both
  • Figure out which is better for your purposes

How are Compost and Manure Different from One Another?

Despite the usefulness of both options, there are significant differences worth mentioning. There’s no doubt that composting is much easier for people who don’t live on farmland. However, you can choose whichever process that you prefer to achieve the same results. After all, both of them are used to promote a healthy growing process for other plants.

The main differences between manure and compost are as follows:

Compost doesn’t use feces or urine very often, although it’s still a possibility. Most compost piles consist of table scraps, used newspapers or other printed materials, dead plants, and grass clippings. Rather than relying on animals, people who make compost bins can do so entirely with compostable trash.

Another noticeable difference between the two is that manure almost always smells gross. The odor is similar to a petting zoo, which isn’t terrible to everyone, but it’s definitely not scentless. The number of droppings used creates a pungent mixture that’s unmistakably unique.

Making a compost pile usually requires a bin or an area large enough to decompose without interruption. On the other hand, you only need a pit or an area that other animals don’t venture off into if you want to use manure.

The reason that so many farmers prefer manure is because it’s so readily available. You don’t have to wait for table scraps, nor do you have to filter out bones, meat, and other products. Almost any type of manure can be used, although there are a few concerns that we’ll dive into later in the article.

People who live in a regular neighborhood don’t have access to excess manure, which is why they rely on compost piles. If you have old fruit, dead leaves, or weeds that keep popping up, a compost bin can take care of the problem for you. You’ll be able to use the fertilizer to grow healthier fruit and other plants.

If you threw paper into a pile of manure, you would have a difficult time trying to get it to break down quickly enough. The nitrogen in plants is what helps to feed bacteria in a composting bin, which is why it can consume such a wide variety of materials.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Both Fertilizers

Manure and compost piles are an excellent way to recycle, promote healthy growth, and control excess trash, dead plants, and feces. There are distinct differences, as you’ve seen above, but there are also pros and cons worth looking into. Let’s check them out below:

Pros of Manure

  • Dealing with countless pounds of feces, droppings, urine, and spilled feed can be nearly impossible without turning it into usable piles of manure. Fortunately, you can use the mixture to produce more food for your livestock, benefitting you, them, and the landscape.
  • When piles of manure sit in the same spot for a long time after you’ve been using them, they alter the soil. This process increases the nutrition of the soil, raises the amount of moisture that it can hold, and improves water filtration. All in all, manure changes the surrounding environment.
  • Manure can cost you virtually nothing if you have enough livestock to maintain the pile. It might take a little bit of labor every now and then, but you don’t have to buy anything to accelerate the process.
  • Another advantage of manure is that it increases the air quality of the soil, produces healthier plant life, and it propels the drainage of the nearby soil. When you use manure throughout the land for crops, it influences and improves everything from the roots to the nutrition in the soil for many years to come.
  • You don’t have to worry about scavengers and other animals trying to eat the manure pile. The only pests that you’ll deal with will be flies, which is to be expected. Well-fed animals produce manure, which you can use to produce more food for them. What’s more efficient than that?

Cons of Manure

  • As mentioned earlier in the post, manure can smell quite foul. There’s no way to make it sound appetizing, given the fact that it’s made of feces. The type of bacteria found in manure is very unhealthy, which means that you’ll have to put up with the odors.
  • Speaking of bacteria, E. coli, salmonella, and other contaminants need to be filtered out before you use manure. This is the only lengthy process when it comes to using manure, but it’s not easy.
  • You need a variety of animals and plants to make an excellent pile of manure. If you have the same type of droppings from a single source, you might not achieve similar productive results.
  • Manure is incredibly heavy, making it nearly impossible to carry and use without machinery. Even if you have a system with shovels and wheelbarrows, it’s simply not efficient if you’re not using some sort of powerful equipment. You’ll end up spending days just trying to fertilize crops.

Pros of Compost Bins

  • You don’t need feces, urine, or animal droppings to make a compost pile work properly. Rather than trying to collect all of the aforementioned materials, you can use almost everything that you have in your home. Just take it out when you remove the trash, which doesn’t add much time at all to your day.
  • If you make a compost bin with enough oxygen, moisture, and good ingredients, you don’t have to worry about a foul smell. Instead, a healthy ecosystem in a compost pile will smell like dirt, grass, and leaves.
  • Compost is known to increase the amount of water that the soil can hold, as well as the filtration. This process means that you won’t have to do as much irrigation for your garden. It’s also packed with nutrients to enrich the soil, making it an excellent environment for plants to grow.
  • Healthy compost fights diseases and bad bacteria, preventing them from killing or harming your plants. It’s also good to prevent your pets and other animals from getting sick if they happen to consume the plants and soil.
  • Compost is much lighter than manure since it takes advantage of oxygen and moisture. Rather than being a soaked pile of fertilizer, compost is airy and easy to move around. You can use a couple of shovels to disperse it throughout your garden for the best results.

Cons of Compost Bins

  • Compost piles take a very long time to start working. Most people who quit trying do so because they’re not patient enough to let nature run its course. If you don’t have enough time to work on compost regularly without seeing results for several months, then it might be a problem.
  • People who make massive compost piles in numerous bins might be required to obtain a special permit, depending on the laws of their city, county, and state. This issue mostly applies to commercial businesses and farmers, but it’s still worth mentioning.
  • Compost isn’t free like manure. You need to buy bins, tarps, thermometers to keep it functioning properly. Some piles require misters for moisture, natural accelerators to kickstart the process, and other tools.

Here’s an article comparing compost bins to compost tumblers.

Types of Useable and Unusable Manure

Manure piles take advantage of waste that might otherwise be a huge problem. The efficiency is as good as it gets. After all, you’re giving optimal usefulness to something that would be thrown away. Unfortunately, you can’t use all types of droppings, feces, and urine for your piles of manure.

Here are the types of manure that you can use:

  • Chicken manure
  • Horse manure
  • Cow manure
  • Sheep and goat manure
  • Rabbit manure

As you can see, most livestock on a farm produces manure that you can use. Once you let it decompose and process it, you can use their feces to grow top-notch crops for more food. However, there are a few animals that produce manure that’s toxic or unusable. These animals include the following:

  • Pig manure
  • Cat manure
  • Dog manure
  • Human manure (yes, some people try this)

It’s safe to say that meat-eating animals aren’t good at producing usable manure. Sadly, they’re all prone to creating a home for parasites and other dangerous inhabitants. If you’re using spilled food from your livestock to enrich the manure, steer clear of anything that uses artificial dyes.

Getting the most out of your manure pile is all about finding the correct balance between eligible manure from vegetarian animals and plant waste. As long as you don’t use any manure from carnivorous animals, you shouldn’t have a problem making a perfect fertilizer for your crops.

Note: Some people make manure piles to sell to other farmers. If this is your intention, you need to contact your local government to see what the necessary licenses and fees are. They have to verify that the manure is consistently healthy and high-quality.

Type of Usable and Unusable Compost

If you decide to use compost piles because of your location or personal preference, you’ll love how useful they are. Finding a purpose for old trash is cheap, eco-friendly, and incredibly healthy. However, much like manure piles, you can’t use everything to add to your compost pile.

Here are the materials that you can compost:

  • Food waste (except bones, meat, fat, and oil)
  • Living or dead grass, plants, and leaves
  • Non-invasive weeds
  • Paper plates, napkins, black and white newspaper, books, and comics
  • Eggshells (there’s a debate, but as long as you wash them beforehand, you’ll be fine)
  • Harmless store-bought chemical accelerators

You can pretty much compost anything that’s derived from plants. The only two reasons that you can’t compact meat products is that they can harbor parasites, and they attract scavenging pests from around the neighborhood. There are also a handful of other items that people try to compost without much success:

  • Meat, bones, oil, fat
  • Diseased plants and dead animals
  • Colored or waxed paper
  • Cat, dog, pig, human, and other meat-eating animal waste
  • Bread is a concern because it attracts birds and other pests, but it can decompose, so it’s up to you
  • Chemically-treated wood and sawdust
  • Invasive weeds (the seeds spread when they decompose)
  • Walnuts (they have a compound that’s toxic to some plants)
  • Acidic fruits and other food (bacteria doesn’t do well with acidity)

As long as you don’t use anything that’s toxic, invasive, attractive to pests, or impossible to decompose, you can use most household waste. To prevent foul smells, make sure that you always mix the compost pile regularly. It should sit between 130 to 175 degrees to allow bacteria to thrive.

How to Maintain Manure and Compost Piles

Regardless of which option you choose, they both require maintenance. If you throw everything in a pile and don’t take care of it, you’ll end up with a bunch of trash and feces without any purpose. The good news is that you can follow the steps below to promote a healthy bacterial environment quickly.

Tips for Manure

  1. Fence off the manure pile to prevent your livestock from trying to investigate. If they stomp around in it, they could bring contaminants and track the feces all over the farm.
  2. Don’t use any manure from sick or diseased animals. The disease sticks to the manure, ruining the pile. You could potentially spread it to the crops and other animals in the area.
  3. Try to use manure from the bottom of the pile first. This decision allows you to prevent it from going bad, and it also gives the top manure more time to grow healthy bacteria for future usage.

Tips for Compost

  1. Make sure that everyone in your family is aware of what should and shouldn’t be thrown into the compost bin. Helpful children sometimes contaminate the pile by thinking that anything they have to throw away should go into the bin.
  2. Always use a mixture of green and brown debris. Living grass, plants, and leaves release nitrogen to produce a healthy compost pile. However, it has to be counteracted by brown materials to prevent the nitrogen from taking over.
  3. Get enough oxygen, moisture, and ingredients to your compost pile. Aerate it once or twice a week (sometimes more for compacted bins) with a rake or a shovel. For moisture, use a humidifier, sprinkler, or garden hose. Some climates have enough humidity by themselves.

Which is Right for You?

When it’s time to choose compost or manure, you have to think about your housing situation. If you live on a farm or you have plenty of land with livestock, manure is the way to go. Without enough animals to maintain the pile, it’s nearly impossible to have a functional manure pile.

On the other hand, people who live in a house with a backyard and no farm animals should consider a compost bin. Anyone can compost, even if they live in an apartment. Bins range from all sizes, giving everyone an opportunity to recycle and reuse table scraps, paper, and plant material to create high-quality fertilizer.

Even if you don’t have plants to fertilize, you can sell or give away the compost. Doing something for the environment doesn’t always need a reward, but it sure is helpful! Whichever you choose, recycling old waste in favor of new, usable material is an excellent idea.


Compost and manure are easy to make, inexpensive (even with all of the tools included), and efficient. As long as you follow the advice given throughout this guide, you’ll be able to take advantage of used materials from daily living. Don’t forget the requirements for both, as well as the do’s and don’ts.

ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on March 23, 2020.

Here’s a give rundown of everything in the post:

  • Manure can be completely free to produce.
  • Compost needs moisture, oxygen, and the proper ingredients.
  • Manure is easier for farmers, whereas compost is easier for people without land.
  • Don’t use manure from meat-eating animals in compost or manure piles.
  • Both options are fantastic for the ecosystem as well as the soil.
  • Meat, bones, oil, fat, and bread all attract scavengers and pests.
  • Manure is heavier to deal with than compost, but it’s quicker and easier to maintain.
  • Plants can be used in both types of fertilizers.
  • Filter and process manure before using it to prevent diseases from spreading.