Poultry Mortality Composting

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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 within 7 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. Composting of livestock mortalities is one option. There are two general approaches to livestock mortality composting: bin systems and windrow systems.

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.
Composting in a properly managed system will work to prevent livestock disease transmission, protect air and water quality and reduce the nuisance of carcasses and bones. Composting improperly in an unmanaged system can result in a large nuisance and risks social repercussions.

Costs related to composting mortalities include the time to manage the process, operating costs and equipment costs. Managing the process requires time to form the base for composting, to stockpile carbon materials, to add mortalities, to turn the windrow and the time to land apply the finished compost. Annual operating costs include fuel, labour, land costs for the site and the costs of the carbon materials. The equipment costs for composting include the use of a front end loader tractor or another means to build and turn the material.

Poultry Mortality Composting is available as a downloadable PDF.

Source: Agdex 450/29-1. Revised 2015.


Other Documents in the Series

  Livestock Mortality Management (Disposal)
Livestock Mortality Burial Techniques
Large Animal Mortality Composting
Swine Mortality Composting
Poultry Mortality Composting - Current Document
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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.