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Mortality Disposal and Its Implications on Human, Animal and Environmental Health


Published on With disease issues, the decline of the rendering industry, a ban on use of downer cows for food, and rules to halt horse slaughter, environmentally safe and sound practices for disposal of horses and other livestock mortalities are limited. Improper disposal of carcasses containing veterinary drugs has resulted in the death of domestic animals and wildlife. Composting of carcasses has been performed successfully to reduce pathogens, nutrient release, and biosecurity risks. However, there is concern that drugs used in the livestock industry, as feed additives and veterinary therapies do not degrade readily and will persist in compost or leachate, threatening environmental exposure to wildlife, domestic animals and humans.

Two classes of drugs commonly used in the livestock and horse industries include barbiturates for euthanasia and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) for relief of pain and inflammation. Sodium pentobarbital (a barbiturate) and phenylbutazone (an NSAID) concentrations in liver, compost, effluent and leachate were analyzed in two separate horse carcass compost piles in two separate years. Horse liver samples were also buried in 3 feet of loose soil in the first year and drug concentrations were assessed over time.

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Mortality Disposal and Its Implications on Human, Animal and Environmental Health

  1. 1. Mortality Disposal and its Implications onHuman, Animal and Environmental HealthCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduJean Bonhotal
  2. 2. Disposal MethodsAs carcass disposal options become limited, it isimportant that the disposal tools implementedprotect human, livestock and environmentalhealth.BurialContract for ServicesCompostingDigestionIncinerate/ Landfill
  3. 3. Disposal Processes &Environmental ImplicationsWater- NutrientsBODPathogensSoil- NutrientsPathogensAir- OdorEmissionsTraffic-Noise
  4. 4. Burial Pit
  5. 5. Three Research ProjectsCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduBurial Leachate Qualityduring CompostingFate of Drugs inComposting
  6. 6. Burial Study•Dimensions are 30’ wide by 15’ deep with3--54” containment walls•The pad has a 1% slope to the west wallwith four 4” pipes incorporated fordraining leachate toward a vegetated filterstrip.• Very little carbon was used,and the containment waspacked with carcasses.Cornell Waste Management
  7. 7. C:N Ratio, Number of Animals, GoodCoverCornell Waste Management
  8. 8. Run-Off from BurialCornell Waste Management
  9. 9. Leachate Quality Results:BurialCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduDate TKN(mg/l)NH4-N(mg/l)P (mg/l) BOD(mg/l)TOC (mg/l)06/02/08 3,300 1,100 70 4,700 7,70009/29/08 640 52 930 4,60010/02/08 6,000 4,200 440 21,000 74011/12/08 3,000 1,800 92 3,500 8,100Date pH NO3-N(mg/l)Chloride(mg/l)Fecal Coliform(log10 cfu/ml)06/02/08 7.9 3.8 1,900 3.009/29/08 8.4 15.0 2,300 < 2.010/02/08 6.4 31.0 710 > 3.011/12/08 8.3 16.6 2,000 < 2.0
  10. 10. Compost Leachate QualityAssessment StudyCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.edu2- 15’ x 8’ rectangles were marked out;holes were drilled at the point ofcollection and 5-gallon buckets lined withgarbage bags were placed in each hole.Plots were curbed with wooden and steelbeams that were 6” tall.Heavy 6 mil black plastic was used to linethe plots.24” base layer of woodchips was laid ineach of the plots
  11. 11. Leachate Quality Assessment StudyCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduTwo deer were placed on the woodchipsas the first layer in the plot on the westend. The plot on the east end was“woodchips only”.Data logger temperature probes wereplaced in both piles.Riverhead, NY – Blue and Green funding12” of woodchips were laid on top to cover the first deer layer2 more deer were placed in the 2nd layer in the road-kill pile.Both piles were covered with an additional 24” of woodchips.
  12. 12. Leachate Quality Results:Road-kill Compost versus Woodchips OnlyCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduTKN (mg/l) NH4-N(mg/l)P (mg/l) BOD (mg/l) TOC (mg/l)Date Deer Chips Deer Chips Deer Chips Deer Chips Deer Chips04/14/08 703 36 213 11 44 10 4,067 487 1,733 37304/29/08 75 7 38 1 17 1 333 48 230 3605/19/08 14 13 3 2 3 2 27 24 95 16306/06/08 32 16 9 5 6 2 101 47 177 17
  13. 13. Comparison of Nitrogen (TKN) in Mortality Compostand BurialCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduCompost BurialX-axis is 10 times the order ofmagnitude here versus the compost.
  14. 14. Fate of Drugs StudyCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduA 20’ x 21’ piece of 10 mil plastic sheetingwas laid down. A hole was dug at the lowend of the pad, under the plastic forleachate/runoff collection.A 24” bed of wood chips was laid on theplastic.A 27 year old 1000 lb Appaloosa wasinjected with 120 ml Fatal Plus at 390mg/ml Pentobarbital Sodium.
  15. 15. Fate of Drugs StudyCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduThe liver was removed, cut into piecesand put back in the horse for retrieval atvarious intervals.A separate 4 foot hole was dug in whichliver samples were placed to simulateburial.Data logger temperature probes wereplaced in both the compost pile and inthe “burial hole” to record hourlytemperature.
  16. 16. Fate of Drugs StudyCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduThe horse was then covered with 24” ofwood chips, and the plastic liner wastightened by rolling it over and underwooden fence posts.
  17. 17. Temperature and RainfallCornell Waste Management
  18. 18. Pentobarbital (ppm) in Liver SamplesCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduDecay rate of pentobarbital:In the pile – 2.2% per dayIn the burial hole – 18.4% per day
  19. 19. Pentobarbital in LeachateCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduDecay rate of pentobarbital: 20% per day
  20. 20. 0510152025303540453 7 10 14 17 30 56RumpHeadAll LeachatePentobarbital Levels in LeachateppmDays
  21. 21. Horse pile opened after 7 months of compostingCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduMortality CompostingWhen done properly, mortality compostingprotects ground and surface water.Composting of euthanizedlivestock appears to breakdownboth pentobarbital andphenylbutazone, thusrendering the finished productsafe for wildlife and domesticanimals.
  22. 22. Composting, Done Properly, is Safe forHumans, Animals and the EnvironmentCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduMake sure you are not close to wells,streams, water bodies. Check depthto groundwater. Look for plants thatindicate wet areas.SITE SELECTION CARBON SOURCESNot all carbon sources are created equal.Carbon sources include: WoodChips, Shavings, Sawdust, Refusedfeed, Spoiled Silage, ChoppedCornstalk, Nut Hulls, Partially CompostedMaterial-HOT
  23. 23. Mortality Composting StepsCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduLay 24-in bed of bulky, absorbingorganic material containing somesizeable pieces. Place animal inthe center of the bed.Lance the rumenCover the carcass with dry, high-carbonmaterial.
  24. 24. This method allows for good aeration which createshigh temperatures, destroys pathogens and createsa biofilter to alleviate odors.Cornell Waste Management
  25. 25. Some Best Management Practices: Ground andSurface Water ProtectionCornell Waste Management Institutecwmi.css.cornell.eduFilter StripsCompost Berms and SocksBerms for Diversion Off-siteGrading/ Slope 1-2%Collection LagoonsCollection TanksSite MaintenanceLAGOONBERMMOWED SITECOMPOST BERMPhoto by Bob Rynk
  26. 26. Large, Poorly-Shaped Piles are NOTEfficient
  27. 27. Hydro-seed with Road Kill Compost/Soil Mix
  28. 28. Questions?Cornell Waste Management