Mortality Composting in the Semi-Arid West

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Why Is Proper Mortality Management Important?

Proper management of animal mortalities has important implications for nutrient management, water quality, animal health, and farm/ranch family and public health.  To best ensure human health and safety, reduce regulatory risks, and protect environmental resources, livestock producers should become familiar with best management practices (BMPs) for dealing with dead animals. Producers should also be aware of state laws related to proper disposal or processing of mortalities. 

Mortality composting is an increasingly popular and viable alternative when compared to other disposal practices because of cost savings, bio-security benefits, and reduced environmental risks.  Static mortality composting differs from traditional composting in both management intervals and carbon to nitrogen ratios.   The objective of this workshop is to provide those who advise livestock producers with the knowledge, tools, and resources to develop a mortality management plan, with specific focus on the static composting option.   

The Rocky Mountain based authors conducted demonstrated research, reviewed pertinent literature, studied USDA-NRCS standards, and documented mortality composting systems already in-use by regional producers. 

Recording of the author’s presenting the workshop
Options for managing dead animals
Principles of mortality composting
Managing animal mortality compost piles
Economics of mortality composting

Curriculum Materials

Data from these activities provided a basis for the following tools:

  1. Decision aid spreadsheet that evaluates the costs of mortality composting against other mortality disposal options (in English and Spanish),
  2. How-to-manual on mortality composting in English and Spanish),
  3. Video illustrating on-the-ground mortality composting
  4. PowerPoint presentation explaining mortality composting principles, methods and resources (in English and Spanish).

Learning Objectives

This 90 minute in-service workshop will provide background and step-by-step considerations for mortality composting, with an emphasis on the practice in the semi-arid environments of the western United States.  However, fundamentals of the workshop will apply to all climates.   To the right, you will find recordings of the authors presenting the workshop using the slides from the curriculum materials.


Thomas Bass, Livestock Environment Associate Specialist, Montana State University Mr. Bass has been an Extension Specialist in the area of livestock and environmental management for 12 years.  He has been involved in composting research and demonstrations for much of his career. 

Jessica Davis, PhD, Colorado State University.  Dr. Davis is an Extension Specialist and the director of the Institute for Livestock and the Environment, a diverse group of CSU faculty working together to solve problems at the interface of livestock production and environmental management. She is the principal investigator and originator of this SARE project.    

John Deering, MS, Colorado State University.  Mr. Deering, is a regional Extension Specialist in Eastern Colorado.  He is an economist by training with an emphasis on agriculture and business management.  He developed the economic tools and narratives associated with the products of this project.

Michael Fisher, MS, Colorado State Univeristy.  Mr. Fisher is an area Extension Agent, with an emphasis in livestock production, meat science, range management, and overall ranch management.  He is an important conduit between producers, other government agencies, and industry groups in north eastern Colorado.      

Additional Information

This project was funded by the Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program.

Archive webcast:

Curriculum Materials

Companion Video:

Manual (eng):

Manual (span):


Ppt (span):

Partial Budget:

Partial Budget (span):

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2013. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Denver, CO. April 1-5, 2013. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.