The embedded spreadsheet lists several collections of livestock and poultry related video resources that are a combination of archived webinars, field video, or recorded conference presentations. In most cases, you can search the collection by using its search function (YouTube channels) or by using your browser’s “find” function to location a key word or phrase.
The stewardship-focused topics in these collections these are wide-ranging: manure treatment, anaerobic digestion, grazing management, soil health, air quality and odors, greenhouse gases and climate, animal welfare, pathogens, regulations, and much more. The cover all sizes of farms and all species of food animals (beef, dairy, pig, poultry, sheep and goats) as well as horses.
Most of these resources are freely available to use in educational or non-commercial programs with proper attribution. It is always a good idea to contact the person listed if you utilize the resources so they are aware the resources are useful (and continue to produce them) and to provide written permission.
If you are aware of additional videos or collections that should be added to the list, visit the spreadsheet and add the requested information.
If you have questions, contact Jill Heemstra, Nebraska Extension.
Healthy communities include healthy businesses. A proposed new or expanded animal feeding operation can challenge the harmony of a local community. One commonly expressed concern regards the health impacts of the airborne emissions. Resources are available to help community members dealing with difficult decisions related to animal feeding operations. This 12 minute video explains some common air issues related to livestock and poultry production and science-based resources available to help policy makers and community members better understand odor, health and zoning issues as they develop policy.
Policy and Air Quality Resources
Setback estimation tools are available to help local policy makers and feeding operation owners assess the potential odor impact of a new or expanding operation on nearby neighbors and public areas. After odors, the most common livestock and poultry air emissions to receive scrutiny from regulators are ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Both of these gases are important in a piece of federal legislation known as the Environmental Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
Some of the management practices available to farmers mentioned in this video include:
Improperly disposed livestock or poultry carcasses represent a threat to water and air quality.
Proper management of on-farm animal mortalities is vital to every farming operation. Improper disposal of dead animal carcasses can negatively impact surface water and groundwater from carcass leachate. If the animal died of an infectious disease, pathogenic bacteria and viruses may be present within the carcass. These pathogens can be spread by insects, rodents, predators, and subsurface or above ground water movement, as well as through direct contact with other livestock or poultry leading to increased disease transmission risks. Furthermore, many states have rules regulating the proper disposal of livestock and poultry mortalities. Therefore, the purpose of proper mortality disposal is to prevent the spread of infectious, contagious and communicable diseases and to protect air, water and soil quality. Note that regulated AFOs must abide by their animal mortality disposal plan outlined in their nutrient management plan.
Managing dead animals is not pleasant, but is a necessary task for most livestock and poultry farms. This video discusses several options for disposing of carcasses in an environmentally responsible manner.
In most states, commonly approved disposal options include: burial, landfills, incineration, rendering and composting.
Perhaps the most common method of disposal is burial. Most states have regulatory burial guidelines outlining site location, distance from waterways, depth to groundwater, etc. When proper guidelines are followed, burial is a safe option. However, poor site selection, such as sandy soils or areas with high water tables, may pose a threat to groundwater. Furthermore, burial does not convert the carcass into a valuable by-product. Variable equipment and labor costs will influence the economic viability of this disposal option.
Disposing of carcasses at a licensed landfill that accepts animal mortalities is another form of burial. Landfills may require notification before delivery and/or documentation from a licensed veterinarian stating the cause of death. Landfill tipping fees should be assessed and may range from $20 to $30/ton. Other considerations are transportation costs and breeches of biosecurity by moving carcasses off- farm. Similar to burial, a valuable by-product is not produced.
Incineration is a safe and effective means of carcass disposal, especially from the standpoint of biosecurity. The carcass is completely consumed by fire and heat within a self-contained incinerator utilizing air quality and emissions controls. Some states may require air quality permits. Incineration is mainly designed for smaller carcasses and fuel costs should be considered. Due to odor and emission concerns, open air incineration (burning) is not recommended and banned in some states. Furthermore, obtaining complete consumption of the carcass in a timely manner is often difficult to achieve. Burning should only be used in emergencies for controlling infectious or contagious diseases with permission from a regulatory body.
Another recommended carcass disposal method is rendering. This is a heat driven process that cooks the product while killing pathogens and converting it into a value-added product such as an animal feedstuff. These feedstuffs, such as meat and bone meal, are generally used as pet food ingredients. Although rendering is a very effective method, currently, there are few rendering services available. The transportation expense of collecting small volumes creates a financial obstacle for most rendering companies. Some rendering facilities require the producer to transport carcasses to the plant and pay a fee. Biosecurity and disease transmission risks should be considered when allowing vehicles on the farm and when transporting carcasses off-farm.
Composting dead animal mortalities is an inexpensive, biosecure and environmentally sound approach to addressing the issue of carcass disposal. By definition, composting is a controlled biological decomposition process that converts organic matter into a stable, humus-like product. The carcass (nitrogen source) is buried in a bulking agent (carbon source), such as wood shavings, allowing for the proper carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N) required by microorganisms to successfully decompose the carcass while absorbing excess moisture and filtering odor. The high temperatures achieved through proper composting will destroy most pathogens. Microorganisms will degrade the carcass leaving only a few small bone fragments, which are brittle and break easily. This valuable by-product can then be land-applied as a fertilizer source, adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil or recycled for new compost piles. As with burial, site selection is important. The site should be located in an area that does not pose a risk to surface or groundwater contamination.
Alternative methods are not specifically defined. They may include homogenization, digestion or chemical processes and technologies to recover products from mortalities.
Sometimes, a disease outbreak or natural disaster results in many livestock or poultry carcasses that must be managed. Disposal of these requires additional planning to ensure this is done in an environmentally responsible manner.
During catastrophic events when multiple livestock losses occur, a producer’s routine mortality disposal plan may be inadequate. In these instances, multiple disposal options may need to be considered. Burial, rendering, landfills, composting and incineration or a combination thereof are recommended options. All catastrophic events should be reported to the appropriate state agency. If a catastrophic mortality event is the result of disease outbreak, bio-security considerations may dictate the method of transportation and disposal.
Abandoning animal carcasses and allowing scavengers to dispose of them is risky.
Though dragging off a carcass to the boneyard has been a historical practice, abandonment is NOT recommended and is likely ILLEGAL in most states. Examples include: carcasses abandoned on the surface, in open pits, ditches, water features and sinkholes or in wells. Abandonment promotes extreme biological and disease hazard, threats to water quality, odors, flies, scavengers, rodents and visual pollution.
The need to dispose of livestock or poultry carcasses is an inevitable part of farming and ranching. What is this process and is it environmentally sound?
Composting is a natural process in which microorganisms convert organic matter into a stabilized product termed compost, which can then be used as a beneficial soil amendment. In the case of livestock mortality composting, the carcass can be placed in a compost bin. At this location, we have used net wire supported by t-posts as our compost bin. The carcass is then covered with a supplemental carbon source. In this case, we have used wood shavings mixed with manure. The carcass is then allowed to decompose through natural microbial activity which breaks down both soft tissue and bones. This process usually takes several months to form a stabilized product.
Composting livestock and poultry carcasses is a cost effective way to manage mortalities on a farm or ranch.
The cost of composting livestock depends largely on the cost of your local carbon source. Sometimes wood chips or shavings can be obtained locally for free from tree removing companies or from local county fair barns and arenas. If building a compost bin, a producer can spend around $50 per bin constructing when using tee-posts and net wire construction. Keep in mind that the carbon source and the bin can be reused for future mortalities.
Composting livestock and poultry carcasses is becoming a more common way to manage mortalities. There are several reasons for this.
Composting is relatively inexpensive when low cost carbon materials are utilized. The high temperatures generated during composting create a very biosecure process which eliminates pathogens and reduces disease transmission when properly managed. Composting is also an environmentally sound method for carcass disposal as it reduces odors as well as carcass leachate by surrounding the carcass with a carbon filter. The composting process creates a beneficial by-product rich in nutrients which can be land-applied as a fertilizer. Composting promotes a positive public perception by adequately disposing of animal carcasses in a sustainable manner without negatively affecting the environment.
Research studies have been done to correlate the temperature of a compost pile containing livestock or poultry carcasses and the amount of pathogen kill achieved at those temperatures. How do you take the temperature of a compost pile? And how does that temperature correlate to pathogen reduction?
Maintaining a temperature of 131 deg F for at least 4 hours assures us that we have reached an appropriate temperature for pathogen reduction. However, to destroy most pathogen and viruses, compost pile should sustain temperature 131 °F or greater for at least 3 consecutive days. The heat is the result of microbial metabolic activity within the compost pile as they are consuming the carcass.