Composting offers alternative to deadstock disposal

Having a plan for what to do with dead livestock only grows in importance as the temperature dives below zero.

Dr. Kim Stanford, a research scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, points out farmers are not going to be able to dig a hole for dead livestock after the ground freezes. She adds if they do manage to dig, it must be covered for safety reasons. 

Stanford says one alternative solution researchers have found great success with is composting, something that works no matter the temperature.

“You need to have a source of carbon - we use a bed of straw - lay your mortalities on top of the straw and then we cover them with manure and it needs to be covered so you can’t see the carcass, to a depth of at least six to seven feet tall,” Stanford says. 

Compost and spread

Composting has worked well at the Granum Hutterite Colony, where they compost and then spread the matter on their fields and in their pastures. 

Kenny Hofer, who carries out the composting, says they are mindful of preventing any possible contamination.

“We try and pick a spot that is usually 150 metres away from any water sources,” Hofer says.

He says it is also important to keep careful records during the composting process. 

Watching temperatures

“You have to write everything down when you start, including the temperature,” Hofer says. “The temperature when it is actively composting and turning into nutrients is around 45 C to 65 C, sometimes it can even reach 70.”

He says once the temperature drops below 45 C, he mixes everything and waits for the process to happen again, repeating the procedure two more times.

Stanford says no matter how you dispose of livestock, whether it be a renderer, composting or burying it, it is imperative that predators can’t get to the dead animals. She says if they get a taste they will linger around the property and start preying on newborn livestock.

Bottom line

The reality of dealing with dead livestock is a challenge in the winter. Composting offers one solution to consider.

Article by: Craig Lester