Faith Kirk, 20, looked up from her smelly shovel and gave a little smile.

“I’m glad to help,” she said, before returning to her work shoveling horse manure from the pens at the National Western Stock Show last week.

And then — to press her point — Kirk added, “Really. We grew up doing rodeo. So, this isn’t new to us.”

Faith Kirk & Hope Kirk.jpg

Faith Kirk and Hope Kirk, identical twins from Pittsfield, Illinois, grew up going to the National Western Stock Show. As volunteers this year, the twins shoveled horse manure out of the pens on Jan. 11, 2023.

She and her identical twin, Hope Kirk, 20, grew up taking care of horses and cattle. The twins live in Pittsfield, Illinois, the self-proclaimed “Pork Capital” of the Midwest. Pittsfield may be a 14-plus hour drive east of Denver, but the pair grew up coming to the National Western Stock Show.

This is the twins’ first-year to volunteer.

They’ve helped in a variety of capacities, but with more than 100 livestock shows and nearly two dozen rodeos, the twins found themselves back in the pens again.

The thousands of animals tromping the stock show grounds over the 16-day event this year means lots and lots of droppings. In fact, after the last cowboy rides through the chute, about 17,000 yards of manure will be hauled off.

That’s 170 football fields.

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So, what happens to all that poop?

The short answer is, it doesn’t go to waste.

In past years, livestock manure was made into an organic compost that was shipped to a variety of retail locations along the Front Range. And compost with biosolids was used to fertilized remote highway medians.

The compost can be used for flowerbeds, planting trees or vegetable gardens and establishing a new lawn.

Karen Woods, spokesperson for the National Western Stock Show, wasn’t certain how all the manure will be handled this season, but said each area “does their own thing with it.”

All stock shows generate excess manure, an underappreciated resource. It’s unknown how many recycle animal feces, in addition to paper and plastics.

Clearing away animal waste may sound like a gross job, but somebody’s got to do it.

“Well,” Hope said, “we do it at home so it’s not that big a deal to us.”

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