Livestock Mortality Burial Techniques

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 Mortalities happen. Under Alberta’s Destruction and Disposal of Dead Animals Regulation of the Animal Health Act, Appendix A, the owner of a dead animal shall dispose of the animal within7 days of its death. Mortalities can be composted, incinerated, buried, rendered or naturally disposed. Today, animal agriculture is challenged to discover innovative ways to dispose of livestock and poultry mortalities. Burial of livestock mortalities is one option.

The environmental considerations for improper disposal include:

  • Odour – decomposition of organic matter, particularly the anaerobic (lacking oxygen) breakdown of proteins by bacteria, will produce a foul odour.
  • Scavengers – ravens, magpies, coyotes, etc. and insects can transmit disease and are a nuisance.
  • Pathogens – disease-causing spores may still be viable.
  • Excess Nutrients – concentrated source of nitrogen.
  • Nuisance – visible carcasses and bones fuel social issues and can puncture tires.
Burial of livestock and poultry mortalities on the farm where they were produced is one option. The booklet does not cover all burial requirements. For this information, refer to the regulation, Appendix A.

This protocol is not appropriate for disposal of mass mortalities.

Emergency Carcass Disposal
  • Accidents and natural disasters can result in mass mortalities.
  • Contact your Municipal District or County for emergency carcass disposal assistance.
  • The Destruction and Disposal of Dead Animals Regulation allows more than 2500 kg (5500 lbs) of dead animals to be buried in a single on-farm burial pit under the direction of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian or a veterinary inspector.
How Burial Works
Decomposition of buried deadstock is a slow process and works best if the mortalities are mixed with soil and buried in well-drained, warm soils with aerobic (oxygen present) conditions.

In good conditions, decomposition occurs in a few months especially in the upper layers of the soil. However, under poor conditions decomposition can take years, especially if deadstock are packed together in wet soil and buried deep where soil temperatures are cool.

The entire book is available as a downloadable PDF.

Source: Agdex 400/29-2. Revised 2015.

Other Documents in the Series

  Livestock Mortality Management (Disposal)
Livestock Mortality Burial Techniques - Current Document
Large Animal Mortality Composting
Swine Mortality Composting
Poultry Mortality Composting
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This document is maintained by Jennifer Rutter.
This information published to the web on March 1, 2002.
Last Reviewed/Revised on November 6, 2017.