Given the dearth of rendering options in most states, the vagaries of on-site burial and public perception, as well as the restrictions for incineration, composting deads is making more sense to some.

At the Wheatland Stocker Conference in Enid, OK, last month, Brian Pugh, Oklahoma State University (OSU) Extension ag educator, said to think of composting as above-ground burial.

Pugh and Josh Payne, OSU area animal waste management specialist, put together some insightful fact sheets on the subject (see below).

“Sustainable livestock production requires proper management of on-farm mortalities regardless of farm size,” they write in one. “These methods should adequately dispose of animal carcasses without negatively affecting the environment, while also remaining economical to the producer. When properly managed, composting livestock mortalities is a safe, effective option for producers to consider, while producing a valuable soil amendment.”

If you’re unfamiliar with it, these 10 steps for proper large animal carcass composting from Pugh and Payne offer some idea about what’s involved:

  1. Construct barrier and base at chosen site.
  2. Prepare carbon pad at least 18 in. deep.
  3. Place animal in center, ensuring the carcass is at least 24 in. from the pad edge.
  4. If necessary, use baling twine to hold legs and head in position.
  5. Lance rumen to deflate gas buildup.
  6. Add water to carcass and pad until carbon source is damp but not wet.
  7. Finish with at least 18 in. of carbon cover over the entire carcass.
  8. For exposed piles, form a steep peak to shed excess water.
  9. After 75 days, the first heat cycle should be finished. Turn the pile while mixing and aerating the carbon material. Large bones should remain in the core of the pile.
  10. After 150 days, the second heat cycle is nearing completion. Turn the pile again to further cure.
  11. Remaining bone fragments should be brittle but can be placed in the next pile for complete decomposition.
  12. Land-apply the material as you would fertilizer or use to compost additional carcasses.
Learn more in these fact sheets:
osufacts.okstate.edu/BAE1748web.pdf
osufacts.okstate.edu/BAE-1749web.pdf