Composting as an Economical and Sustainable Emergency Animal Mortality Management Option

RESEARCHER: Dr. Michael Payne, UC Davis

TIMELINE: 2023-2026

OBJECTIVES: The primary goal of the project is to measure or estimate what potential impacts, if any, occur to groundwater, surface water and air quality when proper carcass compost methodologies are implemented. A secondary goal of the project is to develop mitigation procedures and best management practices for poultry and livestock composting when rendering services have been disrupted or are otherwise unavailable. Test sites at various locations throughout California will be developed and monitored. Studies performed will include: 1) continuous, real-time temperature, salinity and moisture content of piles, 2) pathogen reduction during composting, 3) infiltration of nutrients into soil, 4) nutrient/heavy metal content of feedstock and finished compost, and 5) air quality emissions during the life-span of the compost piles.

BENEFITS: Any method (or methods) of animal mortality management systems must be efficient, logistically feasible, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable. Systems must be adequate for routine mortalities, and also be able to absorb mortality surges. When the primary management systems are interrupted, alternative management methods must be available. This project will demonstrate the use of compost technology to manage routine and catastrophic animal mortalities during emergency situations as both economically feasible and environmentally sustainable.

* Funding for this project is provided by California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).