February 01, 2016

(Dan) Hey folks, thanks for joining me on DocTalk today. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson. And we’re going to talk about something that we deal with on farms, it’s mortality. And not necessarily how or why the animals died. But how we’re going to get rid of the mortalities when they occur. Many different situations that occur out there. It’s a very serious topic. Stay tuned.

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(Dan) Hey folks, Dr. Dan here. Thanks for joining me today. We’re going to talk about removal of mortalities at the farm, ranch, dairy, swine operation, whatever. And it’s one of those thing that different situations dictate. Now every once and a while we will have an animal, about four percent to five percent of the cattle in the beef industry die annually. And so it could be a pre-weaning mortality rate, it could be a calf that dies at weaning due to BRD, it could be a cow that’s succumbed to a winter storm or lightning strike or different reasons that we may have a mortality occur. It’s just like, it’s no different than in the human population. So when we start to think about mortalities and when they occur on the farm and ranch, there’s some things that we have to consider. And the first one I go to is the number of mortalities and the time of the year. I start to think about an individual death, or an individual episode that occurs sporadically on the farm. It’s something that’s a natural occurrence. The other one is to start to think about when I have, and maybe an irregular rate of mortality. And maybe I have more mortalities than expected. It might be time that we get an necropsy on the farm. Get a veterinarian out there. Make sure that we’re just double checking that this is something that’s kind of a fluke of nature or something that’s expected in nature and not something and not some sort of disease or toxin outbreak on our farm. And then the last one I start to think about are the catastrophic weather events, when we have the 100 year flood or if we’ve had big snowstorms or blizzards where we’ll have animals that will die in larger numbers due to being caught in the middle of a winter storm, whether it’s out on natural pasture, whether it’s in feedlot situations, in dairy situations, things that we have to be prepared for. And so when we start to think about the different ways that are legal to remove deads from a facility, which the four are rendering, incinerating, burying or composting, how do we start to make that decision on your farm or ranch as to which way that we’re going to remove these deads? Not only will the situation of how many and how close together when we have the dead cattle or mortalities occur, but the other one might be how old the animal is. And when we start talking about Mad Cow Disease or our firewall prevention programs, there are some times that we have difficulty in animals that die that are older than 30 months of age, being placed into rendering situations. So then you start to limit yourself on the different possibilities that you could have to get rid of the mortalities. Incineration is something that we use commonly in small animal and in human death. We very rarely use incineration for the removal of mortalities in livestock situations because of the expense and because of the logistic of moving those animals around. When we start to think about incineration, it’s really not a practical opportunity for us in the beef industry or dairy industry or swine industry. We use it in research settings for large animals but again, we’re basically not going to be able to afford that. So when we come back, we’re going to talk about rendering, we’re going to talk about burial and we’re going to talk about composting of deads. We’ll also talk a little bit about scavenger, death loss removal as well. Thanks for watching DocTalk and we’ll be back after these messages.

(Dan) Hey there, welcome back to DocTalk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine and we’re talking about removal of mortalities, removal of dead cows or calves from your ranch or feedlot. And one of the things that we have to think about is neighbor nuisance, OK? When we have a mortality, a lot of times we’ll take that animal, and we’ll drag that animal out to the road and put it in the ditch, so that when the rendering truck comes by they can just pick up the animal and leave. And that is really good for biosecurity. The big thing you have to be aware of is make sure that the rendering truck has been notified and that they’re going to actually come, because dragging the animal out to the side of the road is not good advertisement for your farm or ranch. It’s not good advertisement for the beef industry in general. So, make sure that we have that timed if we’re going to use rendering. Now, let’s start to think about the potential environmental and biosecurity of a mortality and associate that with our three ways of, three or four ways of getting rid of mortalities on the farm. When we start to think about rendering, burying, composting or scavenging and so when we think about the legal ways and the safest ways of decreasing environmental or biosecurity contamination, the quickest and most efficient way of having that animal removed off your premise, is having it rendered within, picked up by the rendering company within 48 hours. So that animal is removed off the premise, it goes to a rendering plant and we don’t have the concern of the potential of disease transmission from that animal on your ranch. The next one, the next second safest option is burial. The problem with burial is some of the environmental regulations that can come along with that and we’ll talk about those as we go. The next one would be composting. It’s something that’s above ground, but the animals are covered. And they’re composting and so we’re having good bacterial fermentation that actually out competes the pathogenic or bad bacteria when this animal or this carcass is composted. And then the one that has the highest level of risk for disease transmission on the farm or for breach of biosecurity is when we have what we call scavenging and that’s when we’ll take the animal out by the wood pile or put the animal in a draw and we’ll allow the coyotes or whatever to scavenge off that animal, consume the tissue of that animal and the animal is left out there to decompose and to be consumed by wildlife, which then those animals can harbor or potentially spread the disease on your farm or ranch. So, just think about, when we think about the different ones that you’re going to pick of the ones that are available-rendering, burial, composting or scavenging, that there is an innate risk of some sort of biosecurity or disease breach on your farm or ranch. And the lowest risk is when we use rendering. But rendering isn’t always available. So we’ve gone from incinerating the animals to rendering. And when we we come back, we’re going to talk about burial and composting of animals on your farm and ranch. You’re watching DocTalk. Thanks for joining us today. More after these messages.

(Dan) Thanks for coming back to DocTalk. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University where I serve as the Jones Professor of Production Medicine and Epidemiology in the Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Medicine. So, what we want to talk about today is mortality disposal on the farm. And we’ve talked about how we can’t incinerate the animals because of cost and logistics. Rendering is a great option and we want to do it quickly, especially if it’s in the summer, we’re going to do it quickly because the animals decompose faster than they do in the winter. So, it’s of utmost importance that we get those animals taken care of in a very short time period. Now, sometimes out in the country we’ve had difficulties with rendering companies picking up animals that are greater than 30 months of age. And the reason why they don’t pick up those animals, those cows, greater than 30 months of age is because of the biosecurity or biocontainment rules and regulations that we have put in place to prevent the spread of Mad Cow Disease, whether it winds up on our dinner plate or whether it winds up in pet food. So when we start to think about this, we start to have to have plans B and C beyond rendering when the rendering company has decided they aren’t going to pick up those animals that are greater than 30 months. A lot of times burial seems like the easiest answer and the one that would be the least expensive and the least amount of headache. When you think about burying an animal, the first thing that you need to make sure that you’re in compliance with are your environmental policies whether it’s state or local. Make sure you get with the environmental agencies and have your bases covered to make sure you’re doing it within the legal confines within your state and local law. The other thing that you need to think about, some of the just general logistic things about burying an animal. You want to make sure that you’re at least 100 foot away from wells or from sink holes or from different types of areas where there’s a lot of moisture that’s trapped. The other thing is is make sure you don’t bury animals in permeable soil. It kind of makes common sense that we don’t want things leaching out into the soil that might leach into our water system or that would go to cattle or go back to the house. OK, so think about those. We want to bury animals completely. We want to make sure that animals can’t scavenge, they can’t come in and scavenge on the mortality. So a lot of times we recommend that you go at least six foot deep. But when you go six foot deep, one of the things you have to remember about not just on the top of the burial, but think about what’s underneath. So, we want to make sure we have at least two foot of bedrock underneath that animal. We want to be away from the water table and be above the water table when we bury these animals. A lot of things that we don’t think of when we just go out and drop the backhoe or we drop the loader bucket and we start digging. But some things that are very important when we come back to burying these animals. The other thing that’s going to be associated with these animals is make sure you’re at least 100, 200, 300 foot off your neighbor’s property line. OK? And if you don’t know where your property line is and you’re going to bury an animal, it’s something you probably better make sure that you’re on your property and use the GPS so that you can go ahead and lay out the boundaries and you can mark where you’ve buried animals in the past on your farm or ranch. So, when we come back we’ve talked about the other methods. We’re going to come back. We’re going to talk about composting. It’s probably one of the easiest and least regulated ways to get rid of a dead animal on your farm or ranch and we’re going to talk about it when we come back.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to DocTalk. Dr. Dan Thomson here from Kansas State University. And we’re talking about mortality disposal. And when we think about compost and we think about eggshells and lettuce and kitchen surplus put into something that smells and then you take it out to the garden, right? Composting out in the field is pretty odorless when it’s done appropriately, or done correctly. And it’s something that’s pretty easy to do. If you have dried manure from cattle in a confinement operation or from being locked up close to the barn or horse manure or some sort of carbon source, you can compost mortalities. And I guess the general premise is that when we have composting we’re going to create an environment of carbon and nitrogen. The carbon source being the dried manure or straw or leaves or even old grain, things to that nature that you can mix together to provide a carbon source that surrounds that mortality to digest it through bacterial fermentation and composting and turn over of using lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, the good bacteria to help digest the tissues and bones of these mortalities. So, you go out, we find some dried manure whether it’s horse manure or cattle manure and we’re going to make a two foot bed of that dried manure. We don’t want to use wet manure because wet manure won’t allow aerobic fermentation. It will seal that. It will dry. It will form a case and you’ll have an anaerobic fermentation, which I’ll promise you if you do it once, you’ll never do it again. You do not want to have this happen. So we use dry manure, a two foot base of dried manure. We lay the mortality on top of it. Now you want to use your knife because there’s a lot of good bacteria that are located in the rumin of those animals. And so we’re going to utilize Mother Nature’s tools and bacteria and you will just poke that rumin with a knife so that opens up and exposes those bacteria to the carbon source. Now that animal once it’s laid flat on that two foot bed, we will go and get more of the dried manure, straw mixture, chicken litter’s also good and tomb this animal in a two foot tomb all the way around, where we will have the air that will come at the bottom and we will cause this fermentation, the pile will heat up. How long does it take? Within about 90 days you can go out and actually turn that pile over to kind of increase the fermentation and increase the composting of the mortality. But the only thing you’re going to be left with at 90 days are going to be a few of the bones. It’s a very effective way. Make a two foot tomb, dried material, if it’s too dry it won’t ferment, but you can tell whether it’s fermenting with some of these composting thermometers. We’ll get up to 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit indicating proper composing has been done. And again, really does not smell and it’s a very effective way to get rid of the dead. If you want to know more about composting email us. You can find us on the web at www.doctalktv.com. Remember always work with your local veterinarian. We appreciate you watching this show today. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson and I’ll see you down the road.

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