Environmentally Sound & Bio-Secure Disposal of Livestock Mortalities

Dr. Tom Glanville, Faculty, Agricultural & Bioystems Engineering

With more than 15 million pigs, 3 million cattle and calves, and 50 million laying hens in Iowa, state officials have become concerned about the potential environmental and biosecurity impacts of large-scale on-farm disposal of poultry and livestock carcasses in the event of a natural disease outbreak or agro-terrorism.

At the request of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, a 3-year research and demonstration project was begun in the fall of 2002.  This project was designed to provide comprehensive field and laboratory assessment of: the practicality and performance; air- and water-quality impacts; and biosecurity; of emergency composting procedures designed for disposal of cattle and other large carcasses.  In addition to the research provided by this project, a project website ( www.abe.iastate.edu/cattlecomposting ) was developed to share research methods and results with interested livestock producer groups, regulatory officials, policy makers, and researchers in Iowa and throughout the world. 

Use of composting for environmentally sound emergency disposal of large quantities of potentially diseased animal carcasses is a relatively new concept.  As such, it is too early to provide data on adoption of emergency composting procedures.  None-the-less, the response to the project website, and the resulting requests (listed below) for project-related presentations from conference planners throughout the U.S. and Canada, provide strong evidence of an effective research and outreach effort in an area of critical importance to the poultry and livestock production industries. 
          August, 2005, Invited presentation, Emergency Mortality Composting, at Manure Management Clinic, sponsored by ISU Agribusiness Education Program, August 24, 2005.  Ames, Iowa.
          May, 2005, Invited presentation, Iowa Carcass Composting Research:  Environmental Impact and Pathogen Survival, at Symposium on Composting Mortalities & Slaughterhouse Residuals, sponsored by Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Cornell Waste Management Institute, BioCycle Magazine, May 24-25, 2005, Portland, Maine.
          March 2005,  Invited presentation, Manure and Mortality Composting Techniques, at On-farm Composting Workshop, sponsored by NRCS, and Northeast Iowa Community College, March 22, 2005, Calmar, IA.
          February 2005.  Two invited presentations, Cattle Mortality Composting, at Mid-Valley Dairy Days Meetings, sponsored by University of California-Davis, February 16-17, 2005, Tulare and Merced, CA.
          October, 2004. Invited presentation, Science & Policy Conference on Livestock Mortality Disposal in California, sponsored by University of California-Davis, October 14-15, 2004, Davis, CA.
In addition to the research-based outreach efforts listed above, the project website also led to contacts in January 2005 by representatives of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and an invitation to participate in a three-year bi-national research project with CFIA on emergency mortality composting procedures.  This project was subsequently funded by the Canadian Research & Technology Initiative and is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2005.

150 -- Environmental Stewardship

Page last updated: July 9, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu