Acceptable ways for managing mortality Composting 1. Determine the average weight of the carcasses
include: to be composted.
Best Environmental 1. Rendering
Composting is the controlled aerobic biological
decomposition of organic matter into a stable, 2. Determine the composting cycle times for the
Management Practices 2. Composting
humus-like product, called compost. Decomposi-
tion is enhanced and accelerated by mixing organic
3. Determine the needed composter volumes.
Farm Animal Production 4. Sanitary landfills waste with other ingredients in a manner that 4. Determine the dimensions of the compost
5. Burial optimizes microbial growth. Composting mortality facility including bin dimensions and number
Mortality Management 6. Disposal pits can be likened to aboveground burial in a biomass of bins or windrow size and area requirement.
Of these methods, only the rendering, and filter where most of the pathogens are killed by
Charles Gould and Dale Rozeboom, 5. Determine the annual sawdust requirements
composting methods recycle the nutrients. The high temperatures.
Michigan State University, and for the composting system.
Stephen Hawkins, Purdue University other methods, in essence, waste the nutrients. As the microbial population consumes the most
Rendering readily degradable material and grows in numbers, Table 2. Mortality management by composting.
Introduction the temperature of the compost pile begins to rise.
Rendering recycles the nutrients contained in Advantages Disadvantages
Efficient composting requires that the initial
A few animals die because of disease, injury, or the carcasses of dead animals, most often as an 1. Conserves nutrients 1. High initial cost
compost mix have:
other causes in any confined livestock operation. ingredient in animal food, especially for pets. The contained in the dead
The mortality rate is generally highest for new- outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy • A balance source of energy (carbon) and nutri- animals
born animals because of their vulnerability. (BSE) or “mad cow disease” in the United King- ents (primarily nitrogen), typically with a 2. Low odor 2. Labor intensive
dom in 1986 led to restrictions on how rendered carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) ratio of 15:1 to 35:1. 3. Environmentally safe 3. Regular monitoring and
Catastrophic mortality can occur if an epidemic
products may be used in the United States. • Sufficient moisture, typically 40% to 60%. maintenance is required
infects and destroys a large portion of the herd or
4. No need to store dead 4. Cropland required
flock in a short time, or if a natural disaster, such If dead animals are not preserved, they should • Sufficient oxygen for an aerobic environment.
animals for utilization in
as a flood, strikes. There are also incidences when be transported to a rendering facility within 24 • A pH in the range of 6 to 8. finished compost
an entire herd or flock must be destroyed to hours. Preservation allows mortalities to be stored
A number of methods are used to compost
protect human health or other farms in the area. on the farm until amounts are sufficient to warrant Incineration
mortality. At this time in Michigan, only the
The purpose of this publication is to present the cost of transport for rendering. Freezing and Incinerating dead poultry and small animals is
passive composting method is acceptable.
options to manage normal, day-to-day mortalities. fermentation have been used for preservation. biologically the safest method. On the other hand,
Sizing the composting facility includes the
Several of the methods discussed may also be Proper bio-security measures must be utilized to it can be slow, requires fuel and expensive
following general steps:
used for managing catastrophic mortality if scaled minimize the spread of disease from farm to farm equipment, and can generate nuisance complaints
appropriately and accomplished under the direc- by rendering plant vehicles and personnel. from particulate air pollution and odors, even
tion and guidance of pertinent authorities. Plan- when highly efficient incinerators are used.
ning for a catastrophic mortality event should Incineration may require an air pollution permit.
include the study of appropriate regulations, Table 1. Mortality management by rendering. Check state and local regulations.
locating a site for disposal, and having insurance Advantages Disadvantages
to cover the cost involved. 1. Conserves nutrients 1. Increases sanitary Table 3. Mortality management by
contained in the dead precautions to prevent incineration.
Mortality Management Methods animals disease transmission
Mortality must be managed for at least three Advantages Disadvantages
2. Minimal capital invest- 2. Storage of animals
reasons: ment unless preservation is required until pickup 1. Sanitary 1. Nutrients contained in the
1. Hygiene is used dead animals are wasted
2. Environmental protection 3. Low maintenance 3. Fees charged for pickup 2. Final except for ashes 2. Initial cost
3. Aesthetics 4. Rendering service may 3. Fuel and maintenance costs
not be available 4. Potential air quality
Sanitary Landfills Table 5. Mortality management using burial.
About this Publication
In some areas, disposal of dead poultry and/or Advantages Disadvantages This publication is adapted from Chapter 51 “Mortality
animals in a sanitary landfill is permitted. Some
states require special licenses to transport dead 1. Capital limited to
land and excavating
1. Nutrients contained
in the dead animals
Management,” which is part of the Livestock and Poultry
Environmental Stewardship project, funded by the U.S. EPA Best Environmental
animals. Again, check state and local regulations. and coordinated by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and
Table 4. Mortality management using
equipment are wasted
2. Increases sanitary
published by the MidWest Plan Service, 122 Davidson Hall,
Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011-3080. To gain
sanitary landfills. precautions to prevent access to Lesson 51, go to <www.leps.org> or call 800-562- Farm Animal Production
disease transmission 3618. This lesson was written by Don Stettler, retired from
3. Storage of carcasses the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service,
1. Simplicity 1. Nutrients contained in the
dead animals are wasted
until burial may be National Water and Climate Center. Mortality Management
2. No capital investment 2. Few landfills accept dead
4. Land area becomes Charles Gould and Dale Rozeboom,
animals Publications in this series:
significant for large Michigan State University, and
3. Transportation costs
operations • Land Application Records and Sampling Stephen Hawkins, Purdue University
4. Not permitted in many
areas 5. Impossible when • Emergency Action Planning for Livestock
ground is frozen Operations
Burial • Mortality Management
Of the methods utilized, disposal pits or lined • Inspecting Your Confined Feeding Operation
Burial is a common method of handling dead
pits are the least desirable method for managing • Feeding Strategies to Lower N&P in Manure
animals. In cold climates, burial is complicated by
mortality from an environmental protection
frozen ground. Some states allow burial only in • Building Good Neighbor Relationships
perspective. Dead animals take a long time to
situations of massive die-off. In general, do not • Disposal of Farm Medical Wastes
decompose in a disposal pit because of limited
bury carcasses: • Manure Nutrient Recycling
aeration. Due to a high potential for groundwater
• When conditions exist to create a potential contamination, adequate separation distance from • Environmentally Sensitive Field Characteristics
public health hazard. drinking water supplies is necessary. Check with • Manure Applicator Calibration
• At sites with permeable soils, fractured or appropriate regulatory authorities to determine if • Odor Control Options for Confined Feeding
cavernous bedrock, or a seasonal high-water pits are legal in your area. • Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans
table to prevent ground water contamination.
• Within a specified legal minimum separation
1. Bodies of Dead Animals. Act No. 239, Public Act
distance from wells and surface water bodies.
1982, as amended (Michigan).
• Inside the 100-year floodplain.
2. Rozeboom, D.W., J.G. Sirera, B.E. Straw, L.M. It is the policy of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service,
David C. Petritz, Director, that all persons shall have equal opportunity and access to
Disposal Pits Granger, P.J. Fedorka-Cray, and B.J. Thacker. 1998. the programs and facilities without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national
Disposing of Swine Carcasses and After-birth by origin, age, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, or disability.
Purdue University is an Affirmative Action employer.
Composting. Animal Science Dept., Michigan State This material may be available in alternative formats.
University. ANS Mimeo No. 369. 1-888-EXT-INFO
3. Indiana Administrative Code TITLE 345 INDIANA
STATE BOARD OF ANIMAL HEALTH Rule 7.
MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity institution.
Disposal of Dead Animals <http://www.in.gov/ Michigan State University Extension programs and materials
legislative/iac/title345.html>. are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin,
gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual
4. Adams, D., C. Flegal, and S. Noll. 1994. Composting orientation, marital status, or family status. Issued in furtherance of MSU Extension
Poultry Carcasses, NCR 530. work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, Margaret A. Bethel, Extension Director, Michigan State University, E.
Lansing, MI 48824. This information is for educational purposes only.