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Mortality Composting

On April 25, 2014, the American Institute for Goat Research of Langston University held a conference entitled “What Farmer Educators Need to Know about Mortality Composting – Beyond the Basics.” All livestock producers know that if you raise livestock, at some point you will have dead stock. Mortality composting is a lawful, environmentally-friendly method of carcass disposal that can easily be done on-farm. The basic procedure of mortality composting can be found in a number of on-line resources and requires the same components as backyard vegetative composting, namely a carbon source (sawdust, animal bedding, old hay or straw, etc.), a nitrogen source (carcass), water, and available oxygen for aerobic decomposition. Whereas mortality composting is not difficult, farmer educators and other people who work with producers should have a deeper knowledge about the process to answer questions and concerns that farmers may have. What happens to disease organisms in a mortality compost pile? What happens to the drugs used to treat an animal prior to its death? Can I use the compost on pastures or cropland? What is the best way to build a pile? Are there pollution or other environmental concerns? Providing information to farmer educators on these and other questions was the goal of this conference.

You may freely browse and download the individual conference papers or presentations using the pull-down menus below.

Conference papers:


Conference presentations:


All livestock producers encounter mortality. Finding appropriate carcass disposal methods can be challenging. The State of Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry lists five acceptable options for animal carcass disposal:

  1. rendering,
  2. burial,
  3. incineration,
  4. landfills, and
  5. composting.
Finding a rendering service for sheep and goats is difficult. Since July 1, 2006 there has been no rendering facility in Oklahoma that accepts goat carcasses or offal (Dan Parrish, Director, Agric. Env. Mgt. Serv. Div., Oklahoma Dept. of Agric., personal communication). Burial may be expensive if proper equipment must be rented. Further, there are rules on burial that must be followed. Carcasses may not be buried less than 1 foot above flood plains or within 2 feet of the water table or bedrock. Burial cannot take place within 300 feet of water sources, houses, public areas or property lines and carcasses must be covered with a minimum of 2.5 feet of soil. The cost to purchase and operate an incinerator is not economical for most producers. Not all landfills accept carcasses, and those that do charge disposal fees. Composting is an inexpensive, environmentally friendly method of disposing of animal mortality that is commonly used in the poultry and swine industries.

This web page will help goat and sheep producers with the basics of mortality composting.

Click here to view/download the mortality composting factsheet



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