7 Tools You Need For Handling Manure & Compost

Manure can be a challenge to deal with. But if you’re willing to compost the manure, you can transform a nuisance into a commodity.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Paulette Johnson

If you keep livestock on your farm—say, horses or cattle—you know manure can be a challenge to deal with. But if you’re willing to compost the manure, you can transform a nuisance into a commodity.

Turning manure into compost is a win-win situation. Compost is a valuable fertilizer for gardens and fields, supplying nutrients (particularly nitrogen) to help plants grow.

And even if you’re unable to use all the compost you create, you can always sell compost and generate a new revenue stream—a positive for any hobby farm.

There’s no shortage of approaches and techniques for turning manure into compost. Dig into the details, and you’ll soon be exploring the pros and cons of piles vs. bins, the nuances of mixing “green” and “brown” materials, the temperatures and time required to achieve quality compost, and more.

There are many articles exploring the best ways to turn manure into compost, but it’s less common to see a breakdown of the equipment you need to efficiently and effectively tackle the job.

Here a few of the tools and machines you’ll ideally have on hand.

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Read more: Build a simple compost bin with these plans!

Pitchfork, Stall Pick, Shovel, Etc.

Whether you’re dealing with fresh manure, the finished compost or some stage in between, various hand tools for scooping, flipping and shoveling are a must.

Pitchforks, stall forks and various types and sizes of shovels should be at the top of your tool checklist.


Arguably the second-most important tool you need is a wheelbarrow.

They come in handy at two important stages. A wheelbarrow can be brought into your barn (and into individual stalls) to carry fresh manure out. You can also fill it with finished compost for easy dispersal in garden beds.

Tractor with Front-End Loader

A tractor, preferably one with a front-end loader, is one of the most critical tools when working with large amounts of manure and compost. In addition to pulling wagons and powering manure spreaders, a tractor equipped with a front-end loader can be used to turn, mix and aerate large compost piles, as well as transport the finished compost to your garden.

Read more: Here are some more tips for dealing with manure.

Manure Spreader

For spreading compost across larger area (like open fields), a manure spreader will save a ton of time and effort while simultaneously dispensing a large volume of material at one time.


Compost piles aren’t always located close to the stables where manure originates.

Does your farm produce a lot of manure? You can reduce the number of trips you make to a distant pile by loading everything into a wagon. Then haul it away by tractor once per day.

Compost Aerator

For small compost piles, particularly those stored in bins, a handheld compost aerator can be used to turn, mix and aerate the pile for improved composting.

Bow Rake

Once the compost is finished and ready for application, a bow rake is useful for breaking up chunks and spreading it evenly throughout garden beds.

Which tools do you use for handling manure and compost?

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