Animal Production Mortalities Emergency Procedures

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

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 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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

Burial Guidelines

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.

Helpful Contacts