This article is written in a series of articles about what you can do to help reduce predation on your ranch.
Small changes can have a huge impact.
(how is that for an oxymororn?)
With Halloween just over, talking about the dead is still acceptable, for now.
Disposing of dead livestock is just one of those unwanted and nasty jobs every livestock owner hates to do. The government of Alberta has a “Destruction and Disposal of Dead Animals” regulation that describes legal ways to dispose of dead livestock in Alberta. The regulation describes five methods to dispose of dead animal’s namely; natural disposal (dumping for scavengers), rendering, burying, composting and burning. All these have limits as to where, how many, distance to certain objects and site location.
Many livestock ranchers have problems with predation and look for ways to reduce or minimize predation on their stock. In a study done in Europe, it was found by correctly and rapidly disposing of dead animals; predation could be reduced by 55 times. Wildlife “learns” to prey on domestic livestock by scavenging on carcasses. Timely and correct removal of dead animals is one of easiest and best ways to make a start at reducing predation. Encourage your neighbors to do the same, regard this as a community project to dispose of dead animals, particularly in a region with high predation statistics.
Burying is one the most convenient ways to dispose of dead animals, provided they are buried deep enough (about 8 feet) to prevent scavengers from digging up the carcasses. Burying in the winter months can be problematic. A big issue with burying is the potential contamination of water sources. Strict attention needs to be payed to the distance of a burial site to water sources such as wells, dugouts and streams.
Rendering is often not a possibility in remote rural areas; some counties allow dead livestock to be brought to landfills. However, this needs to be checked at the county or landfill.
Burning is another good alternative, however investing in an incinerator can be costly and the smell in certain areas can be prohibitive.
Composting of livestock is perhaps one of the best ways to dispose of the dead animals, afterbirths and other waste. Composting is a process where aerobic biodegradation is utilized to decompose organic material. This process turns waste material (manure and carcasses) into a valuable soil additive that can spread back onto agricultural land as part of a nutrient management plan.
For composting to work successfully certain environmental conditions need to be in place: you need air (compost piles need to be turned now and again to speed up the process), nitrogen, moisture (content needs to be about 65%) and finally a carbon source(think of sawdust, straw, manure, old hay ). The ratio between the carbon and nitrogen needs to be about 30:1
A composter is something that can made very elaborately or really simply.
It actually just boils down to the following steps; find an appropriate site, place at least two feet of sawdust (straw, hay, any organic matter) on the ground. Place the dead animal on this base (preferably open animal up to speed up the process) and surround the carcass with some moist bedding. The moisture content is important! Cover this pile with more of the base material. Occasionally turn the pile to add more oxygen.
To prevent scavenging of the carcasses in the compost pile, consider placing a fence or fence panels around the composting site. Chicken wire over the top will prevent ravens and other birds from picking in the pile. After about a 4 month process a complete cow is broken down into a humus type substance that can be easy spread onto agricultural land. A good compost pile will produce very little offending smell.
How to build a composter that is easy, functional and efficient; refer to the following site, as this will give a step by step guideline how to make a suitable dead animal composter: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/10-063.htm
Composting has some benefits which makes this a very good and reliable form of carcass disposal, namely: disposes of dead animals, helps discourage predators and produces a valuable soil byproduct, requires little effort, can be used year round and is relatively cheap.