Overview

Minnesota boasts a vast livestock population. Unfortunately, where there is livestock there will also be unexpected death loss. Proper disposal of animal carcasses is an important part of preventing the potential spread of disease and protecting air and water quality. Unless slaughtered for human consumption, animals that die need to be disposed of within 72 hours.

Backed by authority in Minnesota Statutes, our carcass disposal experts can help you figure out the best solution for each situation.

Burial

Burial is an inexpensive and biosecure way to handle dead stock, but it must be done in such a way that minimizes risk of groundwater contamination.

Before digging, check with your power company. Once the site is cleared, the next step is to check the level of the water table. Dig the hole as deep as needed to completely cover the carcass and prevent scavenging by other animals. Then, dig down an additional five feet. Carcasses must be buried five feet above the seasonal high-water table, so if you hit water you’ll need to find another location to bury.

Burial in sandy areas or areas within 10 feet of bedrock should be avoided.

Composting

Composting is an inexpensive and environmentally-friendly way to dispose of animal carcasses, too. When done correctly, composting works for cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses and poultry.

There are only four ingredients are needed to start and maintain a successful compost pile:

  • A carbon source, such as sawdust, wood chips or corn husks
  • Nitrogen (found naturally in manure)
  • Carcasses
  • Water

These ingredients are layered. As long as all animal parts are completely covered with the carbon source, the internal temperature of the pile should begin to rise within 24 hours. Once the temperature of the compost pile starts to drop, add oxygen by stirring the pile using a tractor or pitchfork. Make sure the pile is always damp by sprinkling with water if needed.

Incineration

Incineration is a cold-weather alternative to burial, but a more costly method of carcass disposal.

Carcasses must be incinerated in a Pollution Control Agency (PCA)-approved incinerator. Ash and gas emissions from the incinerator cannot exceed pollution standards set by the PCA.

Rendering

Rendering companies are the ultimate recyclers and provide a necessary service to livestock producers. Availability of rendering service in northern Minnesota is somewhat limited, but many producers in other parts of the state use rendering on a regular basis.

Vehicles that haul carcasses for rendering services need to be inspected and permitted by the Board, unless the vehicle belongs to the owner of the animal. To prevent disease spread and keep roads clean, carcasses and animal parts are transported in leak-proof vehicles or containers and covered.