An interesting question from Tom:
I was wondering about something I saw. At a friends rural property I
saw that it was frequented by “scrub cattle”. Since their manure piles
quickly become gray I had an idea. Could a person start a bin with
virtually all aged manure piles and only add more when they have been
devoured? My thinking is that since castings are black and this manure
is gray knowing when to add more would be rather simple. Color coded
vermicomposting. I could start at the botom of a bin and just keep
adding until I run out of room. I’m wondering if any bedding would
even be required.Just keep it moist. Thanks.
Using solely aged manure as a food/bedding can certainly be a viable option. In fact, if there was ever an “ultimate” food (and habitat) for worms, this would be it. This assumes, of course, that we’re are talking about something fairly bulky and fibrous (manure slurries, or sloppy wet material in general won’t work). It also assumes that the material HAS been allowed to age or pre-compost for a long enough (how long, will vary from one material and process to the next).
My recommendation for the material you’ve mentioned would be to start by testing it out on a small scale in an existing vermicomposting system. If it is dry stuff, make sure to hydrate it (to the point of being nice and moist but not dripping), before adding a small amount on top of the worm habitat zone. This test (and use of the material in general) is best suited for an open – or at least very well ventilated – system.
If the worms are coming up to feed on the manure quickly/readily you are probably ok to use a container of just the moistened manure as an actual worm bin (may want to start with a handful of worms just to be absolutely sure).
It’s important to note that worm castings are not always black. The color can often be influenced by the main materials being processed. Manure vermicomposts often seem to be more of a brown color than black, in my experience, and in systems where I’ve used a great deal of egg carton cardboard I find the end product can actually be quite gray in color. That said, I’m sure you will see enough of a difference between the gray manure material and the finished vermicompost to be able to tell what’s finished and what’s not.
Hope this helps!