Proper Animal Mortality Disposal
Animal mortality is a part of nature, and a reality of raising livestock. When an animal dies, both legal and ethical considerations should be made when determining what to do with the carcass.
- [Voiceover] In a perfect world, every animal that we raise would live to the proper market time.
But animal mortality is a part of nature and a reality of raising livestock.
Our responsibility to care for animals does not end with the animal's life.
When an animal dies, both legal and ethical considerations should be made when determining what to do with the carcass.
- Improper disposal of dead animals can cause environmental issues and pose a risk to animal and public health.
- Additionally, improper disposal can lead to neighbor issues and a poor public perception of agriculture.
- [Voiceover] There are a few simple guidelines that will ensure that you are following the law and will help to prevent issues with neighbors.
- In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the law requires that any deceased animal must be disposed of within 48 hours of death.
To do so, there are four options.
- [Voiceover] Render, bury, burn, or compost.
- Rendering is a pickup service.
It is convenient and requires minimal labor.
However, it can be expensive and there can be biosecurity risks.
- The Pennsylvania domestic animal law requires that anyone who purchases or receives a dead animal for disposal must be licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
- [Voiceover] Rendering pickup should be located in an area away from the main animal housing.
Dead animals should not be visible to the general public.
- Burial has the greatest number of environmental, public health, and safety considerations.
Burial sites need to be chosen carefully to prevent groundwater and well water contamination.
- [Voiceover] Burial sites should be a minimum of 100 feet from any waters, including streams, ponds, wetlands, etcetera covered with a minimum two feet of soil within 48 hours.
In addition, burial sites should be 200 feet from wells and sinkholes, 200 feet from property lines, and away from public view.
Technical assistance for selecting proper burial sites is available from Penn State Extension, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and your county conservation district.
- Burning, or incineration, is convenient, but can be expensive and may cause odors.
- Currently, on-farm agricultural operations are exempt from many air quality regulations.
However, check with your local municipality before incineration.
- It is important to note that incineration is not the same as open air burning.
Open air burning is not a legal way to dispose of deadstock.
- [Voiceover] Incineration requires a special unit specifically designed for this purpose.
The best incinerators have the burner above the animal, or are fitted with a flue afterburner to help eliminate smoke and odor.
- Composting is a mixture of a high-carbon source, sawdust, wood chips, or dry bed pack, and the nitrogen source, the animal.
A 50% moisture mixture is the best.
The hand squeeze test will help you determine if you have the proper moisture levels.
- [Voiceover] After evenly mixing your materials, grad a handful and squeeze it.
If a lot of water drips out of your squeezed hand, the mixture is too wet.
Now, you'll want to add more dry material.
If you squeeze and open your hand and the compost crumbles and falls apart, you need to add more moist material.
If you squeeze and open your hand and the compost stays in a clump and your hand feels damp, you've achieved proper moisture levels.
To select a composting site, choose a site that is at least 200 feet away from any water source.
Like with any disposal method, choose a location that is out of public site, and is protected by visual screens, such as a treeline.
- Make sure the site has at least two feet of carbon cover over and under the animal.
This prevents biosecurity hazards, such as neighboring animals and scavengers digging up bones and other materials.
- Composting is convenient, affordable, and requires minimal labor.
Properly managed compost will not have problems with rodents, predators, flies, or odors.
- [Voiceover] Full instructions for composting and other legal forms of disposal can be found on the Penn State Extension and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture websites, or by contacting your Regional Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture office.
Frequently Asked Questions