In our first peek behind the scenes at Animal Farm, we talked about food—where it comes from, how much we use, and which animals get what. This time, we’re looking at what happens to that food when it comes out the other end as waste. Don’t worry—we won’t gross you out!
Droppings and dung heaps
There’s something strangely hilarious about the subject of poo (or poop, if you’re American) at the best of times. When you deal with animals, the fun factor takes on an added dimension. We all know animals aren’t big on modesty or appropriate timing, so while you’re at Animal Farm you’ll almost certainly see at least one animal contentedly doing its business.
Out in the wild, this wouldn’t be an issue. But most of our animals are confined, so it’s important to deal with their waste responsibly. Aside from wanting to create a pleasant environment for our visitors, there are important health and hygiene factors to consider—for animals and humans, of course, but also for the ongoing health of our soil and water.
Poo removal isn’t anyone’s favourite job (see Ara’s story) but it’s an important one, so we grit our teeth, occasionally hold our noses and get scooping. When you visit Animal Farm you’ll probably notice brush-and-pan sets spaced along the fences at regular intervals, especially in the Petting Area—demonstrating we’re “on the job”, as it were.
Waste not, want not
Our animals are champions when it comes to excretion. Every week we fill 8-10 bags with manure from the paddocks. Each full bag weighs 25kg, so that works out at around a tonne of dung each month. Over a year, the weight of our animals’ poo production is roughly equivalent to that of:
- 3 hippopotamuses OR
- 5 cars OR
- 275 toilets
We clean the Petting Area every morning and maintain it constantly during the day. Some of the paddocks are cleaned on a daily basis; others once a month depending on the species and the type of manure produced.
We take the bags, brimming with fragrant contents, to enormous compost bins elsewhere on the property. There we allow the manure to rot down, mixed with newspaper from the guinea pig beds, leftover hay raked up from the paddocks, and branch prunings discarded by the goats. The finished compost is spread around our trees.
There’s only one type of animal waste we don’t compost—it’s too valuable.
You’ve gotta love alpacas. They’re gentle, their fibre is amazingly warm and lightweight, and their droppings (or “beans”) are gold for the garden. Even better from our perspective, they very considerately poo in the same place all the time so bean collection is pretty straightforward.
Alpaca droppings, like those of rabbits and pigeons, are mild enough to go straight on the garden without being composted first. Instant gratification for plants and gardener! They’re a great soil conditioner. They break down quickly and don’t contain weed seeds.
Grow your own giant beanstalks!
These magic beans will give your plants a great feed of nitrogen and potassium (like most animal manures, they’re lower in phosphorus). Best of all, you can buy bags and bags of them right here at Animal Farm. We sell them at the gate, so make sure you pick some up before you leave. Your garden will love you for it!
Environmentally-friendly waste management
We work hard to create and maintain a safe and attractive environment for you and your family to enjoy. We can’t control when and where our animals poo but we’re committed to dealing with the results in an environmentally sound way.
If you have any questions or concerns during your visit, please don’t hesitate to approach one of our friendly staff.
Special bonus: more crazy animal poo terms!
It doesn’t stop at beans. . . if your children are at that age when everything related to bodily functions is fascinating and funny, memorise a couple of these and drop them into the conversation. The kids will look at you with a whole new level of respect!
- Scat: wild carnivores
- Sprint: otters
- Fewmets: prey animals, especially deer
- Frass: herbivorous insects (caterpillars, etc.)