Composting as an option for disposal of dead livestock
Composting which is the controlled decomposition of organic matter can provide an excellent source for fertilizers. Composting if done properly can kill pathogens and stabilize the organic and nutrient content of the composted materials. Improper composting can result into unwanted odors that can attract scavengers. If the composting process is properly designed for the disposal of dead livestock, it can have a positive environmental impact because it will reduce the amount of solid waste that will be dumped into the landfills. The ingredients required for composting are moisture, air, bacteria and a carbon source. Substrates that are allowed by federal regulations are:
- Sawdust, shavings or chips from wood that is clean and without any treatments or contaminations from chemicals.
- Straw made from dried stalks and leaves of cultivated grains like corn or beans
- Clean hay or silage
- A mixture that contains only livestock manure
- Poultry litter
In order to comply with federal regulations, the site must be accessible all year round. The volume and size of the dead livestock for composting will also have an effect on the choice of location. The site must not be more than 600 m2 and should not contain more than 600m3 of dead livestock and substrate. Multiple sites can be established but with a 100-meter setback between them to prevent the cumulative effect of leaching. There are several methods for composting that includes the three-bin system, windrow composting and in-vessel composting and it is important to determine what option will be the most appropriate for farm operations.
Incineration as an on-farm disposal option
Composting and incineration are currently the on-farm options for disposal of dead livestock with the least potential for bio-security risks and environmental contamination. Bio-security is an important component of a farm management system because it protects the farm from the entry and spread of pests and diseases. Dead livestock should not lead to the spread of diseases or negatively impact on the environment. Incinerators are usually mobile units shared by neighboring farms with fuel that is either wood or natural gas. Incineration can be compared to burning but incinerators produce higher temperatures that reduce the risks of contamination.
Advantages of incineration
Incineration for the disposal of dead livestock has its advantages. Dead livestock can be immediately disposed as soon as they are delivered to the site without the need to stockpile. Ash residue from incineration does not attract pests and scavengers which reduces the transfer of diseases. Some localities in Canada require a secondary combustion chamber or after-burner to reduce air contamination. It is also important to consider whether incineration is legal because it might be prohibited when in close proximity to urban areas.