Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Composting becomes more common solution to increasing problem of dead-animal disposal

Disposal of dead animals has become a bigger issue since the horse crisis started and regulations to fight mad-cow disease chased many companies out of the carcass-pickup-and-processing business. In Kentucky, more people are composting carcasses, with the help of advice from the University of Kentucky and repeal of a law that required large carcasses to be quartered before composting.

Steve Higgins, environmental-compliance director for the university's College of Agriculture, told Andrea Uhde Shepherd of The Courier-Journal that more than 600 farmers or groups started composting livestock before $25 state permits for the process became available in 2008. Shepherd reports that a permit "is required to ensure that it's done correctly, officials said." (C-J photo by James Crisp: Higgins with an animal compost pile)

Doing it correctly means putting the carcass on a layer of wooden material on an impervious surface that keeps liquids from soaking into the ground, then covering the carcass with "wooden material similar to chips, which has micro-organisms that eat the carcass and generate heat," Shepherd writes. "That both sterilizes and speeds up decomposition. Complex chains of smelly gases break down so no smell is emitted — only water in the form of steam. There also is some carbon dioxide emitted and a hint of ammonia. Within six months, the animal carcass turns into a dark mulch-type material; all that's left are a few brittle bones. It can be used as mulch or used on future composting piles." (Read more)

UPDATE, 1/15/11: After Higgins promoted composting to officials in Nelson County (Wikipedia map), which has a free service that takes carcasss to the county landfill, Erin McCoy of The Kentucky Standard in Bardstown reported that only one county in the state, adjoining Washington County, has adopted composting for large animals. She began her story by writing about a local dairy and hog farmer who has been composting his dead animals for more than seven years, despite the county's free service. The county's solid-waste director is skeptical of the idea. "He said he isn’t convinced no odor would be produced by such a facility," and fears that composting wouldn't eliminate disease oraganisms. Sounds like Higgins is having a hard time educating people who ought to know more about the process. (Read more)


Anonymous said...

There's nothing in this piece about horses. Why is it linked to the "horse crisis"?

Al Cross said...

Because the horse crisis has caused the death of many horses, and improper disposal of some.