Mortality Composting Procedures Outlined
Posted: February 24, 2012
In a perfect world, every animal we raise would live to the proper market time of the animal. But this is not a perfect world and mortality is part of nature. Every state has different options for handling on-farm mortality. It is important to check with your state Department of Agriculture or Department of Environmental Protection regarding your options. In Pennsylvania, state law says that any animal mortality needs to be properly disposed of in 48 hours.
Our four options for handling on-farm mortality are render, bury, burn or compost. Render is a pick-up-for-fee service. Burial needs to be done in the soil at a certain depth and away from any ground water sources. Proper burning needs special equipment. Composting is a process of natural heating and microbial action to compost the calf into organic matter. Please check with your state about your state’s regulations for composting mortality. The following process is being used in New York and Pennsylvania.
Composting is the mixing of a high carbon source (sawdust, woodchips, dry bed pack) with a nitrogen source (animal). This will heat up to 130– 150 degrees very quickly and compost our nitrogen into carbon dioxide, water, and organic matter. Penn State and Cornell Cooperative Extension have been composting pigs, calves, and cows with this basic procedure:
Select a site that is well drained and at least 200 feet away from any water source. Lay a 2-foot thick bottom layer of a bulky high carbon material in a windrow 5-7 feet wide. (woodchips or sawdust) Layer the sawdust in the center of the windrow and the calves on the sawdust.
Put 1 foot of sawdust between each calf and then layer the next calf until the pile is 5–6 feet tall. Add a 2 foot final cover with sawdust, bedpack, or recycled compost from an existing pile. Let sit for 3-5 months and then turn and check to see is calf is fully degraded. After 5 months the pile can be turned and more calves introduced or can be crop field applied depending on the condition of the carbon material.
Plan on using a carbon /nitrogen ratio (sawdust/calf) of 25:1 and about 1-2 cubic yards of sawdust per calf. The bottom layer is to let air enter the pile and soak up any moisture while the outside layer provides a home for the bacteria to live. Some bacteria work close to the calf while other bacteria digest the odors. Excessive odors come from a wet pile and adding more dry material to the mix and the cover should reduce them.
Visit this website for composting information and resources.
- By Craig Williams, extension educator, Penn State Extension