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Post-hurricane livestock carcass disposal advice

00:00AM Sep 17, 2008

Texas livestock producers suffering animal losses because of Hurricane Ike need to follow protocol when disposing of carcasses, say two Texas AgriLife Extension Service engineers and other state officials.

"Improperly handled dead animals in large numbers are a potential threat to water and air quality, and possibly human health as well,” says Brent Auvermann, an AgriLife Extension waste management engineer in Amarillo. "They have to be disposed of with deliberate care and attention to the environment."

The key is for individuals who are trying to bury a few animals to stay in compliance with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulations (pdf brochure). Many of the state regulations might be hard to meet in this situation, but the brochure contains information on proper burial of carcasses and other options for livestock owners in Texas. You can also contact the regional Texas Commission on Environmental Quality office that serves your county or their central office at 512-239-0436 for assistance.

TCEQ options for disposal of non-diseased carcass include:

  • Preferred: On-site burial/ mounding
  • Preferred: MSW Type I Landfill
  • Option: Outdoor burn, using an ACI if possible
  • Option: Off-site disposal using a renderer or a commercial waste incinerator

Saqib Mukhtar, AgriLife Extension waste-management engineer in College Station, also reminds people that some Type I landfills may accept dead animals but it would be wise to check with the landfill personnel before taking dead animals to the premises.

The Texas Animal Health Commission is coordinating the disposal of carcasses with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in situations where there a large numbers, says Carla Everett, information officer for the animal health commission.

Anyone with large numbers of dead livestock can contact the Texas Animal Health Commission's area command at 800-550-8242, ext. 296. Responders will need to know how many animals, the species and the location. If someone has global positioning system coordinates, that's even better, Everett says.

AgriLife Extension specialists say composting might be a reasonable and potentially cost-effective alternative to incineration, burial and rendering. It may take up to three months, however, for calves and yearlings to compost and twice that for a full-grown steer or cow.

The catch, Auvermann warns, is a compost pile can't just be thrown together and expected to work. "Get some help," he says. "You need the right mix of materials, a secure site away from surface water and uncapped wells, and a front-end loader, at a minimum."

Mukhtar notes that the compost materials don't have to be perfect, but the pile does have to be built properly on the correct site and tended closely, especially for the first two weeks. "If things look good for the first couple of days, the temperature in the center of the pile rises quickly above 130 degrees and there's not a lot of rancid odor coming from it, just keep on doing what you're doing," he says.

For more information or guidance on building a carcass composting pile, Auvermann can be contacted at 806-677-5600 or Mukhtar can be contacted at 979-845-3931 or

For questions or comments, e-mail the editors at Beef Today.