Summer 2006

DNR Recommendations for Emergency Carcass Disposal


By Karen Grimes, Iowa Department of Natural Resources

If avian flu or another emergency event would cause the death or need to euthanize large numbers of poultry or other animals, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is responsible for coordinating carcass disposal. The DNR must approve emergency composting and burial when normal mortality rates are exceeded. The DNR analyzes geography and local conditions to determine the disposal method least likely to cause environmental problems.

If diseases are involved, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship would determine acceptable methods of disposal, based on the specific disease and biosecurity concerns, and advise the DNR of their findings. Disposal methods for large numbers of animals must be approved by the State Veterinarian if disease is involved.

Composting and Burial

The two most viable methods for disposal of large number of animal mortalities from a disease are on-site whole carcass composting and burial.

Thermometer measuring compost temperatureComposting: Iowa State University (ISU) has conducted research recently that indicates whole carcass composting is a viable option for diseased mortalities. For producers, the advantages of whole carcass composting include easy maintenance and monitoring while providing for the complete breakdown of the carcass and destruction of many diseases. The DNR's composting plan is based on ISU’s research. For animal diseases, this is best done in windrows and the compost piles are not turned. For more information, producers can check the ISU publication “Composting Dead Livestock,” Emergency Livestock Mortality Composting in Iowa Web site, DisSolving Swine Mortality Problems Web site , or the IMMAG Web site.

Burial: Carcasses can be buried at or near the production site under normal conditions. The DNR must provide prior approval for burial of catastrophic losses when the number of animals needing burial exceeds the limits allowed by state regulations. Again if the animals were diseased, the State Veterinarian should be consulted about disposal methods. More information on burial rules for normal conditions can be found on the DNR Web site.

While burial at a nearby landfill may be acceptable under normal conditions, most landfills are not equipped to handle large numbers of carcasses. If disease is involved, the carcasses should not be moved outside of the quarantined area.

Other Disposal Methods

Loading composted materials for land applicationRendering and incineration are acceptable disposal methods on a small scale, but are limited options for diseased animals because of biosecurity concerns.

Rendering: Rendering can be used for carcass disposal under normal circumstances. During a disease outbreak carcasses should not be moved outside the quarantined area because of the risk of transmitting the disease. Disposal at a rendering facility must be approved by the State Veterinarian.

Incineration: Incineration (not open burning, burn pits or burn piles) may be an acceptable option if the facility is within the quarantined area and it is approved by the State Veterinarian. However, both fixed-facility and mobile incinerators may have limited capacity, so they would not be able to handle a large number of carcasses quickly.

The open burning of carcasses is not allowed under any circumstances. Burning can cause air pollution, has the potential to spread disease organisms and produces unsightly burn piles.

If emergency disposal is necessary, contact the DNR’s emergency response unit through the state’s 24-hour emergency spill line at (515) 281-8694.


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