Are you concerned about the disposal of your dead livestock? Rather than burying them into the ground, you can convert them into natural compost. Among many methods of dealing with dead livestock, my family has been doing this one for a long time.
That is how I learned many things related to this. In this article, I will tell you how to convert your dead animals into compost based on my practical experiences.
First, you need certain tools, machinery, and carbon materials for building and managing the compost pile. Using these, you must select a proper site and prepare it for composting. Then you have to build the base, add the carcass and cover it with composting material.
Take preventive measures and emergency actions along the way. You will get the desired finished compost after 12 to 16 months.
Read the rest of the article to get more information on this process.
Why Should You Compost Dead Animals?
If you are a poultry or livestock producer, you must be concerned about the proper management and disposal of animal mortality. You may find many people abandoning the carcass of an animal in ditches, open pits, sinkholes, canals, ponds, and wells.
This is very much illegal because it promotes disease and biological hazards. It also increases water pollution, pests, rodents, scavengers, and air pollution through pungent odor.
So, you should focus on mortality composting more among various carcass disposal methods. This process is an increasingly popular and efficient alternative in terms of ecosystem management, reduced health hazard, cost savings, and the creation of a usable end product.
Therefore, try to focus on best management practices (BMPs) from now on to deal with dead animals efficiently.
Required Materials and Tools
A long-stemmed thermometer
You can also use a “Compost Soil Thermometer” or “Digital Prima Thermometer” for instant reading. The long stem is very efficient to measure the temperature at the core of the pile.
A Compact Wheel Loader or Front-end Loader
This machine will help you to move the carcass and turn the pile easily. You can also use it to move the finished compost someplace else for storage.
Remember, you will need a bigger loader for bigger carcasses. So, consider the size of the carcass before hiring a loader machine.
A Perforation Tool
The composting process can take longer if the size of the dead animals is large. So, you need to either quarter the carcass into pieces or open it up to allow more surface area for the microorganisms to work.
To do this, you can use a necropsy knife, sharp hunting knife, big blade shears, or scissors.
Materials rich in carbon content
Examples of carbon sources are peanut hulls, wood ash, crop residues, sawdust, shredded sugar beets, broken twigs, corn stalks, rotten hay bales, broken down sticks, grass clippings, coffee filters, thin branches, wood chips, etc.
You must mix water into the composting pile to keep it moist. It will be better for you to use water from wells, nearby ponds, or lagoons.
These natural sources of water usually contain more nitrogen materials for optimal composting.
The Process of Animal Composting
Select the Ideal Site
- Your compost site should be in a well-drained area that is higher than surface waters like wells, ponds, canals, and streams. Make sure that the site has a good slope of a maximum of 3% for proper drainage.
- Select an elevated site away from human residences, which may be on top of a hill for the compost pile. Here the heavy wind will blow away the foul odor rapidly, making it easier for you to operate.
- You can also build your composting areas downwind of nearby houses to minimize the pungent odor or dust being carried from the compost pile due to heavy winds. It is also better to keep the compost pile away from the public and neighbor’s eyes because they may find the handling of dead livestock offensive and troublesome.
- Choose a site away from the closest public resources and any water sources. For example, tables, picnic areas, residences, playfields, guest houses, etc.
Prepare Your Chosen Site
Make the base with low permeability soil. If you find predominant soils that are close to groundwater, build a compacted layer of gravel and sand of 15 cm. For more advanced issues, you may need to build a clay pad or concrete pad.
Be sure to contact the local guide and livestock owners for more information and options regarding groundwater issues and other soil categories.
Before starting to build the compost pile, vegetate the area property to reduce environmental impact. If you manage to do proper vegetation, it will soak up pile leachate and prevent drainage into any water table. This will reduce runoff while maintaining soil porosity.
If the compost site is unvegetated, you can pave it with crushed bottom ash, caliche, clay soils, etc. to reduce the permeability of the soil.
Also, you can mix those materials into the soil, and place them compactly for seepage reduction into groundwater.
Build the Base of Your Compost Pile
Use such materials that are both bulky and absorbent as base materials, for example, shredded woods, wood chips, nut hulls, ground hay or straw, dry sawdust, gin trash, green sawdust, and remains of finished compost.
Build at least one foot of base material between the perimeter of the carcass and the edge of the base. These materials are necessary to achieve successful porosity for aeration. Keep the thickness of the base between 12 to 24 inches.
Maintain the moisture content of the compost pile around 50% to 60% by mass. To capture any leachate before reaching the pavement surface or ground soil, it must go through an absorbent base layer.
Remember, the thickness of the base layer depends on the weight of the carcass.
Keep a few open bases ready all the time to insert new carcasses. Before doing this, make sure that the base material is moist, and not excessively dry. You will probably need around 12 cubic yards of materials to fully compost a cow carcass.
In most cases, you will see that a base of 10 feet by 9 feet is ideal to compose mature animals like a cow. But in the case of smaller carcasses, you need to maintain an 8-inch to 12-inch margin around each of them.
Place the Carcass and Cover with Compost Materials
Make a layer of compost mix about 12 inches over the base layer. Ensure that that carcass must be surrounded by 12 inches of composting materials with adequate moisture. The finished compost pile can reach up to a height of 6 feet.
Cover the carcass in such a way that no part of the carcass is exposed. Because if any predators or rodents discover that animal carcass, it will keep returning to the site and disturb the process.
Moreover, covering the carcass properly reduces bad odor and ensures uniform heating.
Monitor the Composting Operation
Do not use the loader too often
Do not access the loader every day. Only use it when you need to build the pile and turn it after every 4 to 6 months. You must wait up to 12 months for the completion of the composting process.
It depends on the size, space of the carcass, and mixture of compost materials.
Manage Compost Pile Timely
Monitor the compost pile daily and only intervene when needed, so try not to disturb the site in the first 4 months. During this time, the microbes and fungi work actively to reduce the carcass into homogeneous organic material.
Even after the process is almost complete, the fungi require extra time to work on the remaining pile. After 4 months, you can access the pile for watering, mixing, and stockpiling.
Monitor Temperatures Regularly
Measure the pile temperatures and make decisions accordingly. You must use a long-stemmed thermometer or dial-type thermometer and check the temperature by inserting it into the center of the pile.
You can also use a compost thermometer that has a long probe of 18 to 60 inches for measuring the internal temperature. Make sure that the pile has 120°F to 150°F for effective pathogen destruction.
Ensure Proper Moisture Content
Your carbon-based compost materials should have 50 to 60 percent moisture content. If necessary, you can add water to the compost material. The compost feedstock should have 40% to 60% moisture for arid climate regions.
For efficient composting, you may need to create a flat top so that the moisture falling onto the pile gets soaked in. Try using dry materials to get rid of excessive moisture.
Adding a cap to your compost pile will reduce evaporation and help to maintain optimum water levels.
Watch out for These Issues
1. Sharp-ended bones can impact the quality of your compost materials. In addition, shards of large bones from a leg or hip girdles can puncture your farm equipment.
So, we recommend you remove any exposed sharp bone from the entire pile and break it down before using it.
2. Cover and cap the compost pile from all sides so that the carcass is not exposed. This will discourage any scavenger, rodent, and predator activity.
If only covering and capping are not enough, build a strong fence around the pile to stand against coyotes or bears.
3. Never disturb the neighbors with your composting process. Screen your pile from the public eye. Consider the wind direction to prevent the spread of odor and maintain a clean living space.
Take extra precautions before using herbicides. Although flies and other insects can be your worst nuisance, using herbicides too much can impact your dead animal compost.
Response to Emergency Situations Immediately
Use the loader efficiently for emergency issues. For example, if heavy rainfall or flood drenches your compost pile, you can use the loader to rebuild it again.
Also, due to bright sunlight, the compost pile can be too hot to access physically. In that case, use the loader to work on it.
Sometimes strong winds or tornados can cause damage to the compost operation. So, inspect the pile carefully to salvage and minimize the damage.
In this case, contact your local Emergency Management Coordinator for recovery and reduced public health risks.
Compost with Dead Animals is a time-consuming process. But if you manage to pull off this method of disposal, you will have plenty of animal compost at the end.
Then you can use those for your field crops and garden plants. You may even sell or give away the surplus compost to other dairy farmers. Make sure to inform the buyers about the ingredients of your compost before selling.
In this way, you can dispose of dead animals by composting them and transforming them into a source of income.
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