mortality composting in the semi-arid west

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For more: 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.


  • 1. Waste-to-Worth ConferenceDenver ColoradoApril 3, 2013 3:30PM MTN

2. Authors Thomas Bass, Montana State University David Colburn, NRCS, Sterling CO Jessica Davis, Colorado State University John Deering, Colorado State University Michael Fisher, Colorado State University Robert Flynn, New Mexico State University Sarah Lupis, Colorado State University Jay Norton, University of Wyoming Nicolette Schauermann, Colorado State University 3. Editorial Team Editors Sarah Lupis, Colorado State University Thomas Bass, Montana State University Associate Editors Jean Bonhotal, Cornell University Julia Dafoe, Montana Agricultural ExperimentStation Joshua Payne, Oklahoma State University 4. Todays Speakers Jessica Davis, PhD Professor, Crop and Soil Sciences Colorado State University Michael Fisher, MS Area Agent/County Director, Livestock Production Colorado State University 5. Todays Speakers Thomas Bass, MS Associate Extension Specialist, Animal and Range Montana State University John Deering, MS Extension Specialist, Ag Econ and Business Mngt. Colorado State University 6. Project ProductsThis project was funded by a grant fromthe Western Sustainable AgricultureResearch and Education Program - 435.797.2257 Manual (English and Spanish) Video Budget & Decision Tool PowerPoint Companion 7. MORTALITY MANAGEMENT The purpose of proper mortality disposal is toprevent the spread of infectious, contagiousand communicable diseases and to protectair, water and soil quality. Most states have laws through environmentalor agricultural authorities to regulate properanimal mortality disposal. 8. Illegal or Discouraged Option Carcass Abandonment: likely illegal in moststates in the U.S. Promotes: extreme biological and disease hazard, threats to water quality, odors, flies, scavengers,rodents, and visual pollutionCredit: Rilho 9. Generally Accepted Options Incineration: done in a properly engineereddevice with emission controls consumes entire animal high fuel consumption Burning: primarily an emergency measure difficult to maintain flame and temperature difficult to consume animal uncontrolled emissions 10. Generally Accepted Options Burial: most commonly accepted method defined separation distances from ground andsurface water defined amount of coverage over animals Site may require soils assessment and permitting 11. Generally Accepted Options Landfilling: buried at licensed landfill must be accepted by individual facility requires transportation and tipping fees Rendering: heat driven process to separateproducts from tissues requires transportation and possible storage ofcarcass diminishing opportunities across U.S. 12. Generally Accepted Options Composting: is gaining more acceptance as alegal option in most states natural process driven by oxygen, moisture andmicrobes feasible for larger carcasses, even in cold semi-aridclimates reduced environmental risks and the generation of a useful end-product**limited use recommendations are covered later in this presentation. 13. Compost is a, managed, biological, oxidationprocess that converts heterogeneous organicmatter into a more homogeneous, fine-particlehumus-like material (Field Guide to On-farm Composting, 1999) 14. Farming microorganisms primarily bacteriaand fungi; to compost, they require: Carbon: fibrous waste such as wood chips, strawand crop residues Nitrogen: component of manure, carcasses, andplant material Oxygen: passive aeration and by turning Water: ideal content is approximately 50%Composting Principles 15. Carbon and nitrogen are usually supplied in a30:1 ratio for best results commonly expressed as C:N = 30:1 For livestock mortalities, especially largecarcasses, the 30:1 wisdom does not apply recommended carbon for dead animals farexceeds this, due to construction of piles orwindrows with proper coverComposting Principles 16. Oxygen is maintained in aerobic compostingby turning, and initial particle size. turning mechanically aerates as the pile is mixed mortality compost is turned on a limited basis larger or coarser carbon material allows morepassive aeration; ie: airflow a coarse carbon base is recommended formortality compostingComposting Principles 17. Incorporating Animals into theComposting Process Carcasses should be laid on their side Base should be 18 to 24 inches of coarsecarbon larger wood chips Margins of coverageshould be 18- 24 inchesas well 18. Incorporating Animals into theComposting Process Smaller carcasses can be arranged, as before Base should be 18 to 24 inches of coarsecarbon larger wood chips Margins of coverageshould be 18- 24 inchesas well 19. Incorporating Animals into theComposting Process 20. Base and Cover Coarse base material aids in passive aerationfor first 3-6 months Material around carcass may be finer active compost, manure solids or spoiled silagehelp get microbial activity started Cap should be non-odorous, and will act asinsulation and bio-filter add extra cap/cover as needed 21. Tips! Ideal moisture of core materials (closest tocarcass) is (50-60%) Warm materials help start process in winter Carcasses not yet frozen from winter tempswill heat faster Even with freezing ambienttemperatures, composting will happen 22. Tips! Even with freezing ambienttemperatures, composting will happen! core tempswere 140F+,when this photowas taken atHavre, Montana 23. Carbon Options See carbon source table in manual for full listof examples: course wood chips sawdust straw silage manure solids corn stalks crop processingwastes 24. Carbon Options Reminder: materials with moisture of 50-60% will helpmaintain process for weeks without irrigation orturning adequate base and cover will prevent leaching ofcarcass moisture and odors low odor reduces neighbor complaints andscavenger problems 25. Windrows, Bins & Sizing Windrows have the largest footprint and willrequire the most carbon material for base andcover windrows may be ideal for multiple mortalitiesover a shorter period of time Bins will reduce footprint and conserve carbonmaterial supply bins may be ideal for layered small carcasses orintermittent larger mortalities 26. Windrows, Bins & Sizing Estimates of total material for full grown cowin a single pile range, from 12 cubic yardsdown to 7.4 cubic yards to make a windrow, add new carcasses up againstfirst pile, and cover appropriately Practically speaking, for a mature cow, properbase will be about 9 feet wide by 10 feet long core and cap materials should be a margin of 18-24 inches 27. Windrows, Bins & Sizing Margins between layers of small carcasses canbe 8-12 inches final cover margin should still be 18-24 inches 28. Tips on Bins Bins may be constructed of: hay bales concrete barriers wooden structures Bins are easier to fence/block to excludescavengers Passive aeration may be reduced withbins, and slightly lengthen process 29. Facilities Constructionand Engineering Additional information and USDA-NRCSstandards for this practice and relatedfacilities/structures can be found in PracticeStandard 316 and the National EngineeringHandbook 30. Monitoring and Management Composting takes 4-12 months depending onmortality size and mixture The process is passive and should not beturned for 4-6 months the pile, windrow or bin can be turned after thispoint Most soft tissue will be gone within 6-8weeks! 31. Monitoring and Management Temperature: optimum composting happens with coretemperatures between 120 F 150 F below 80 F, microorganisms are not thriving could be too dry or have low oxygen temperature can be checked with a probethermometer 32. Monitoring and Management 33. Monitoring and Management Moisture: since this process is largely passive, starting withproper moisture is important carbon sources with 50% 60% are ideal it may be necessary to wet core and cap ifmaterials are extremely dry (when carcass isadded) after the passive phase, water can be added withturning 34. Monitoring and Management Other Issues: monitor for scavenger activity monitor for excessive flies make sure cover is adequate over time The compost area should be free of theseproblems if basic directions are followed i.e.: good carbon materials, proper startingmoisture, and proper cover 35. Monitoring and Management Maintaining cover should prevent scavengers at research sites, known dogs, coyotes and birdsdid NOT disturb properly covered piles 36. Curing and Storage After trial and error to determine site specifictime for passive phase, turning will help finish Some large, but brittle bones may remain Materials may have dried out Breakdown of carbon material and particlesize reduction may inhibit passive aeration 37. Curing and Storage After 4-6 months turn irrigate if necessary remove large bonesif desired let cure for another4-8 months 38. Curing and Storage Curing: period of warm, but nothot, composting final breakdown will occur temperature will cool to near ambient conditions may use compost for new mortalities or limitedland-application 39. Site Selection An appropriate site will: help to protect water and soil quality protect bio-security (prevent spread of pathogensor disease) prevent complaints and negative reactions ofneighbors decrease nuisance problems minimize the challenges in operating andmanaging the composting operation. 40. Site Selection Location of the composting site should be: above/out of floodplains easily accessible (in most weather) require minimal travel be convenient for material handling maintain an adequate distance from liveproduction animals to reduce the risk of thespread of disease. 41. Site Selection The compost site should also be: in a well drained area on soils of low permeability or a pad graded to prevent pooling or ponding protected from run-on from land above site Check local regulations for depth abovegroundwater and separation from surfacewater and wells! 42. Site Selection Storm water divert storm water from la


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