Animal Production Mortalities Emergency Procedures

Waste Management Program / Water Protection Program fact sheet
Division of Environmental Quality Director: Ed Galbraith

This fact sheet contains guidance for addressing high animal-mortality incidents caused by unplanned events such as floods, tornadoes, or other natural disasters, power outages, fires, spread of disease, market interruptions and other circumstances that can impact animal production facilities.

During a disaster, the highest priority is protection of human life, health 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. Important preplanning steps include the following.

More details on these steps are included below.

Estimating Site Damage
As soon as safely possible after an event, view the site and make written estimates and a photographic record of the damage. This will help in talking to agencies and organizations and making cleanup plans. Identify the following, where applicable:

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.

Permitted concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) must continue to meet the operational and no-discharge permit requirements. Contact the appropriate regional office to discuss any site-specific concerns or compliance issues.

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:

Compost and Burial Site Selection
Prior to on-site burial, contact the departments’ Missouri Geological Survey (MGS) for locating appropriate burial sites on your farm. This service is provided at no cost and can be conducted for emergency planning purposes, or during an actual emergency. You may contact the MGS at 573-368-2100 or, after business hours, the department’s Environmental Emergency Response hotline at 573-634-2436.

The local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office has information about soil types and thickness, and can provide soil map unit data and interpretation reports including ratings for animal burial suitability.

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. These setbacks apply also to features on neighboring properties:

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.

Target the highest elevations and flatter areas of the property. A topographic map may be helpful. Flat to gently sloping upland areas are most desirable. For example, a flat area atop a ridge is preferred because it is generally farthest from sensitive water features.

Choose clay-textured soils, 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

An empty litter stacking shed makes a good temporary composter. If no suitable shed is available, construct emergency carcass composting units with the following in mind:

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 and U.S. Department of Agriculture designs is available at:

Burial Guidelines

The Dead Animal Disposal Law states:

The guidelines below are suggestions and recommended practices to follow in order to protect the quality of the groundwater and surface water supplies of the state. Substitutions are allowable and alternative practices are permissible. It is encouraged to contact the Missouri Geological Survey for assistance.

Contact the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Division of Animal Health or the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for further assistance.

Helpful Contacts