Manure Manager

News Compost Livestock Production
Time the key ingredient in mass livestock mortality composting


May 9, 2020
By Manure Manager

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The University of Minnesota Extension has created a resource for considerations involved in composting livestock mortalities. While the resource focuses on the methods of safely composting the animals, it is important to check with local municipal and state/provincial regulations and ordinances to determine whether livestock composting is allowed and the appropriate solution to your situation.

Composting involves the conversion of organic material to carbon dioxide, water and heat through aerobic-assisted decomposition. While many livestock farms are familiar with composting through manure, livestock mortality composting requires much more time than manure, and this must be factored in when deciding if composting is the correct solution.

Livestock composting involves three distinct stages:

  • The primary stage (1st heat cycle) is for the breakdown of soft tissue and softening of bones;
  • The secondary stage (2nd heat cycle) furthers the breakdown process;
  • The curing process finishes the breakdown process at lower temperatures.

As for the time that each stage will take, that depends on the size of the largest intact animal. For example, a 1,500-pound (lb.) beef cow will take longer to completely decompose than a finishing pig. The time required may be anywhere from two to nine months.

When selecting a composting site, consider the following:

  • Is the location accessible and available for the required total time?
  • How many other farm operations need to shift because of the compost pile, size, and/or location?
  • Will the sight of the compost pile in this location be an unwelcome reminder of a challenging time?

There are many other factors to consider when making the decision to compost livestock mortalities, and there is no right or wrong answer in making the decision – only what the best decision is for you and your farm.

For the full article, visit the University of Minnesota Extension Crop News website.