Composting On-farm Mortalities

William Halfman, Agriculture Agent, Monroe County, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Carolyn Ihde, Small Ruminant Outreach Specialist for Wisconsin and Iowa, University of Wisconsin-Madison
(Previously published online with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Livestock Division of Extension)

On-farm composting is an approved method to dispose of livestock mortalities. Advantages include increased biosecurity, timely disposal of mortalities, low risk of environmental contamination, low cost, and relatively simple to do. Composting can be used for occasional mortality, emergency livestock mass casualties, and disease outbreaks.

What is composting?
Composting is an aerobic (with oxygen) recycling process where microorganisms break down organic material in a controlled environment to produce a stable product called humus. There are many ways to compost livestock mortalities. However, there are a few basics that are universal to all systems. Well-managed composting provides aerobic (oxygen-loving) microorganisms with the proper environment to grow and rapidly break down the mortality.

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