Composting animal mortalities on farm is increasingly becoming a favored option of carcass management, particularly following disease outbreaks. Part of this reason is because mass burial, burning, or landfilling are no longer sustainable options in many areas. Although animal rendering is an excellent option, there is not enough rendering capacity following a disease outbreak. Transport of diseased animals is also no longer favored because of the risk of disease transmission.
The 5th International Symposium on Animal Mortality Management was held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania Sept 27-Oct 1, 2015. The symposium was timely, particularly following the serious outbreak of high pathogenic avian flu in many of the US states in the spring of 2015. Many of these birds were composted on the farm, simply because other options were not available.
There were excellent presentations, including one farm manager, who was responsible for composting his 6 million birds on farm. Composting is increasing considered an option for other disease outbreaks such as foot and mouth disease, or anthrax. While the composting may not eliminate the disease organisms, the organisms can be controlled and stabilized, allowing the material to be managed over time, rather than all at once. There is some excellent research in Canada on the effect of composting on prion destruction. It appears that the combination of heat and biological activity is inactivating the prion.
The symposium helped me realize that we have developed an excellent management system for Avian Flu – including humane destruction using CO2, followed by in-barn composting. I had the privilege of presenting the BC response to high pathogenic Avian Flu in 2014, where there was excellent cooperation between the poultry producers, the poultry industry, the provincial government and the CFIA.
More information on the International Animal Mortality Symposiums can be found at: http://animalmortmgmt.org/