Unfortunately, dead animals are something that every animal producer encounters from time to time. In Arkansas, there are guidelines established by the State Livestock and Poultry Commission that direct and regulate how dead animal carcasses are disposed of.
Roberty Seay, Benton County Extension Agent Staff Chair, noted that there are several ways to dispose of animals properly. Burial, composting, burning, and rendering are probably the most common.
Mark Keaton, Baxter County Extension Agent agreed, “Most people around here will probably bury them. We don’t have a rendering facility near here. You can also compost or burn the carcasses.”
He continued, “Practically speaking, though, burial or burning will probably be the best option.”
Seay noted that many producers will end up burying their carcasses, especially in the spring, summer and fall months. However, during this time of year, frozen or mucky ground can make burial conditions difficult. Burying animals with a backhoe in winter can be tough because after 2 feet there’s no soil moisture.
He said, “The problem of dead animals often comes when the weather might not be cooperating… in winter ground conditions aren’t the best.” Seay sympathizes with producers in recognizing that dealing with dead animals is not a task that a producer ever looks forward to facing. So in the winter months if ground burial is too menial of a task, he said that burning the carcass is a viable option.
Seay also noted that it’s important to take into account how much brush or wood is required to completely burn a large carcass. It requires a huge amount of ‘fuel’ in the form or brush and wood. One must also consider the source of moisture inside the animal – which will keep it from drying out and burning.
In order for the carcass to dry out some before burning (and in order to require less wood for burning), the animal should be cut open and let the insides be exposed to air for about 24 hours and then burned.
Some farms with a really efficient composting system could compost. But this is easier for smaller farm animals… large farm animals would need to be cut up. Composting would require more preparation of the animal itself and follow some measures to ensure that the decomposition process was accelerating over a period of time – such as the animals should be drawn and quartered to let the composting agents begin to do their job, the animal should be placed on 12 inches of composted materials (saw dust, hay or manure) and continually covered with composted material during the entire composting process.
Incineration (using propane or natural gas) could be an option but most farms don’t have the equipment to do that.
Keaton noted that there’s always the concern about producers not disposing of their carcasses properly. This can lead to odors, ground water contamination or scavenger animals coming around more frequently.
Keaton and Seay agreed that the goal is to avoid having animals drug to the back of the farm and letting nature take its course. The main goal is for producers to have confidence that the other methods of disposal of dead animals (besides burial) are also feasible in the winter months.


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