Animal Production Mortalities Emergency Procedures
|Solid Waste Management Program / Water Protection Program fact sheet||
|Division of Environmental Quality Acting Director: Steve Feeler||
This fact sheet contains guidance about handling high mortality of animals due to unusual events such as floods, tornados, or other natural disasters as well as power outages, fires, spread of disease or other events that cause a high number of mortalities at animal production facilities.
During a disaster, the highest priority is protection of human life and safety. As soon as the immediate threat is over, animal producers must address the disaster’s effects on their animals and property. Live animals should be provided humane treatment and dead animals must be disposed of in compliance with state law.
Preplanning for disasters can save time and money during an already stressful period. Contacting your local landfills and identifying composting or burial locations can lessen that burden. This guidance assists you in the preplanning process.
For the disposal law, see moga.mo.gov/mostatutes/stathtml/26900000201.HTML or call the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Division of Animal Health at 573-751-3377.
Estimating Site Damage
Begin by viewing the site and making a written self-estimate of damage. This will help in talking to agencies and organizations and making cleanup plans. Document conditions by photographing damage at the earliest opportunity and then identify the following:
- Number of animals originally on-site
- Approximate number and size of dead animals
- Uninjured animals and their needs for food, water and protection
- Animals that remain unaccounted
- Condition of confinement buildings or enclosures
Move to safety and find housing for uninjured animals either on your property or with the help of your integrator company. Contact your county USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office, usually located in the county seat, to determine what assistance is available.
Dispose of dead animals within 24 hours of death by the most practical means available among the following. This list is in order of desirability with rendering being most desirable and burial least desirable:
- Processing at a rendering plant. Call 573-751-3377 to request information about licensed companies. Some integrator companies have their own rendering in conjunction with processing plants.
- Composting as recommended by University of Missouri Extension.
- Landfill disposal. Call the landfill first to determine whether it accepts large quantities of dead animals. For a complete listing of landfills, visit dnr.mo.gov/env/swmp/facilities/sanlist.htm or call the Department of Natural Resources’ Solid Waste Management program at 800-361-4827 or 573-751-5401 to obtain phone numbers of landfills in the area.
- Pre-existing University of Missouri Extension service-designed agricultural incinerator or Department of Natural Resources permitted commercial incinerator.
- On-site burial following state law’s standard loading limitations.
Compost and Burial Site Selection
Do not bury or compost animals in sinkholes, ravines, caves, mines, low-lying areas subject to flooding, ditches or at the base of a hill. Follow the state law setback distances, using the greatest applicable distance:
- 100 feet from surface water such as ponds, streams and lakes
- 300 feet from springs, losing streams, wells (including unused and abandoned wells, neighboring residences, surface drinking water intakes and public water supply lakes
- 50 feet from property lines.
Drawing a diagram of the property showing all applicable setbacks will help define areas acceptable for composting or burial.
Add neighboring property features requiring setbacks and ask questions of the landowners, if needed. Draw a line or radius showing the setback distance from these features on the neighbors’ properties on the property diagram and eliminate these areas from consideration.
Identify the highest elevations and flatter areas of the property. A topographic map may be helpful. A ridge area is preferred for a burial or compost site because it is farthest from surface water features. Flat to gently sloping upland areas are most desirable.
The local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office has information about soil types and thickness. The offices should be able to provide soil map unit data and interpretation reports including ratings for animal burial suitability.
Clay-textured soils are desirable, including heavier silty clay loam, clay loam, sandy clay, silty clay and clay. Soils with sandy textures or large amounts of gravel are not desirable.
Burial sites should have at least 2-feet of clay-textured soil material beneath the trench. Look for the areas of the property that have the deepest soil but avoid flood-prone areas. A 6-foot deep trench requires 8-feet of soil depth and a 4-foot-deep trench requires 6-feet of soil depth. If a 6-foot-deep trench would expose bedrock everywhere on the property, a shallower trench of 3- to 4-feet depth may be necessary. In this case, a single layer of large animals could be deposited in the trench.
Emergency Composting Structures
If an empty litter stacking shed is available, it makes a good temporary composter. In general, if no shed is available, emergency carcass composting units should be constructed with the following in mind:
- Composting can be done in long windrow piles or in bins constructed of hay bales according to the convenience of available materials and site considerations. A convenient width of bins or windrows for ease of equipment use is 10- to 12-feet. But other widths may be used. Typical heights of piles or bins is 6- to 10-feet.
- Compost piles or bins should be started with a 2-foot thick base layer of bulking material such as sawdust, wood chips, leaves, straw, hay or sillage to absorb odors and liquids.
- Carcasses should be placed in layers separated by 6-inch layers of bulking material. Dry poultry litter may be used in inner layers as a bulking material, if available. Large animal carcasses should be splayed when placed to help with bloating and eruption that can damage the pile. In dry conditions, wetting the layers during placement is advised to provide proper moisture conditions for composting.
- Cap the pile or bin with a 2-foot layer of bulking material.
A properly constructed compost pile will not attract vectors or scavengers, will be odor free, will not ooze decomposition liquids and will kill pathogens. The composting process takes eight to 12 weeks. The process will convert the animal carcasses and bulking material into a beneficial soil amendment.
Further guidance for building composting units according to University of Missouri Extension service designs is available at:
- Trenches should be dug no deeper than 6-feet to comply with the state statute. Stockpile the topsoil separately for final cover.
- If soil thickness is inadequate for a 6-foot deep trench, leave at least 2-feet of clay soil in the floor of the trench and limit the total depth of the trench.
- Keep the bottom of trenches as flat as possible. Slope one end of the trench, if necessary to allow vehicular access for placing carcasses.
- If the site is sloping, run the trench across the slope to minimize the probability of erosion.
- Make the uphill side of the trench no more than 6-feet deep and the downhill side less than 6-feet.
- If an underground void such as a sinkhole, rock crevice, cave or manmade chamber such as a cistern is encountered while digging, do not use that area.
- To prevent trench sides from collapsing, slope or bench any excavation face more than 4-feet high and take any other necessary safety precautions.
- Place carcasses to within about 1-foot of the surface. Pierce body cavities of animals that are more than 150 pounds as they are placed to minimize bloating and comply with the state statute.
- Cover the carcasses with excavated soil so as to mound at least 30 inches thick to comply with the state statute. Pack the cover material by running heavy equipment over it several times.
- Place the stockpiled topsoil over the mounded trench area and seed it with a perennial grass as soon as possible. This will prevent erosion and will help promote runoff from infiltrating.
Contact the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Division of Animal Health or a Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ regional office for further assistance.
For assistance locating an appropriate burial site on your farm, contact the Department of Natural Resources’ Geological Survey Program at 573-368-2100 or, after business hours, the department’s Environmental Emergency Response hotline at 573-634-2436.
- Your integrator company. If applicable, these companies may be helpful in capturing live • animals and finding locations where these animals may be relocated.
- The Department of Agriculture’s State Veterinarian’s Office. Visit the webpage mda.mo.gov/animals/health/staff.php or call 573-751-3377, particularly if buildings are unsafe to enter, which might make it difficult to comply with the state statute regarding disposal in a timely manner, or for situations that require disposal of large numbers of animals.
- Your region’s Department of Natural Resources regional office for help with disposal questions. Visit dnr.mo.gov/regions/regions.htm or call 800-361-4827 to find out which regional office serves your area. After business hours, call the department’s Environmental Emergency Response hotline at 573-634-2436.
- Your county sheriff or other law authorities. They can assist in protecting animals and belongings.