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Mortality Management Methods

A healthy herd is the most valuable asset to a livestock operation. However, all producers know that mortality is an unfortunate but inevitable reality. That’s why it’s important to have a mortality management plan in place should animals fall victim to disease, natural disaster or fatal accident, in order to protect the remaining herd.

The proper disposal of deceased livestock is the first step to any mortality management plan. Although local, state or federal regulations may play a role in deciding which disposal method to use based on the incident, having basic knowledge of local and state regulations as well as the types of disposal methods may prove beneficial to your farm’s well-being.


Carcass Burial
Even after death, contaminated or diseased animals can pose a serious threat to both animal and human health unless disposed of properly. There are several ways to dispose of animal carcasses, however, some are safer than others.

The most common disposal method among producers is burial. If you choose to bury deceased livestock, be sure to carefully select a location to avoid potential hazards. The Healthy Farms Healthy Agriculture suggests considering the following location criteria before burial:

  1. Proximity to natural water and wells, soil composition, topography, and ability to use large equipment (e.g., sinkholes, inadequate roads).
  2. Effects on neighbors (e.g., odor, perception).
  3. Weather conditions that affect disposal options (e.g., resulting in frozen ground or flooded soil, which could preclude burial).


Rendering is a heat-driven process that separates and converts waste animal tissue into reusable materials. This is a simple method of mortality management that leaves no lasting impact on your farm and is recommended by the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Community (LPELC).

However, simple doesn’t always mean best. Due to the limited number of rendering facilities across the U.S., there can be high fees associated with transporting deceased livestock to the facility. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons and review your operation’s budget before moving forward with rendering as your disposal method.


Livestock composting is rising in popularity due to the ease of implementation and minimal cost. International and domestic biosecurity agencies alike recognize composting as an effective removal method and encourage the use of proper composting techniques when disposing of animal carcasses.

This natural process utilizes microorganisms, bacteria and fungi to break down dead animals into basic elements. Similar to burial, producers must be very selective of the location of a composting site. Water and leachate runoff must be avoided, as well as leaching of raw or finished compost nutrients into the groundwater.

No two operations are alike, which is why all producers need to weigh their options to determine which disposal method is best, while also abiding by state and local guidelines. For added protection against the threat of mortality, check out James Allen Insurance’s Mortality Policy.

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