COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri Extension agricultural engineers and economists recently released emergency mortality management recommendations to help producers forced to depopulate swine herds because of COVID-19 impacts.
"It is unfortunate that we are facing supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 and that some pigs might need to be euthanized," says Teng Lim, MU Extension agricultural engineer and a member of the MU Extension Swine Focus Team.
The team is working with Missouri's Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources, USDA and the Missouri Pork Association to guide swine producers on depopulation issues. Mortality management options include composting, burying, incinerating, rendering and landfill.
Emergency morality management gives producers an overview of options for the most practical method for their operation, says team member Joe Zulovich, MU Extension agricultural engineer.
MU Extension, producer groups and governmental agencies are working together to find ways to reduce the number of hogs that cannot be marketed at this time.
Lim was among the presenters of a webinar comparing costs and logistics of disposing of euthanized animals. He reminded producers that practicality changes from farm to farm depending on size and location, as well as available staff, equipment and materials.
The presentation slides can be downloaded from faculty.missouri.edu/limt/pdf/20200429-Mortality-Management.pdf. The presentation gives cost and feasibility options to help producers make the right decision for their operation. It also lists resources such as landfill locations as well as mills that might be able to provide carbon materials such as wood shavings, chips and sawdust needed to compost carcasses.
The Missouri Pork Association is working with producers who want to donate pork to local food banks. Donations help deliver pork products directly to those who need them.
MU Extension economist Ray Massey says it is important for producers to regularly check with resource agencies, including the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (www.usda.gov/coronavirus).
NRCS offers assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help producers properly dispose of carcasses in emergency mortality events such as COVID-19. Through the Emergency Animal Mortality Management practice, NRCS helps producers plan and cover part of the costs.
Massey stresses that those wanting to benefit from this program should contact their local NRCS office before any depopulation activities occur.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture (agriculture.mo.gov) offers regulatory information, and Missouri Department of Natural Resources (dnr.mo.gov) officials can help identify appropriate sites for potential temporary composting and burial.
Missouri law requires that carcasses be disposed of within 24 hours of death through one of five methods: rendering, composting, landfilling, incineration or burial. DNR must approve CAFO producer plans for mass mortality disposal.
Lim says the MU team prefers composting because it reduces the risks of environmental impacts. Finished compost also can serve as a soil amendment to benefit crop production.
Information on building composting units is available in the MU Extension guide "Composting Dead Swine," available for free download at extension.missouri.edu/wq351.
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also offers documentation about livestock mortality composting procedures at www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/emergency_management/downloads/nahems_guidelines/livestock-mortality-compost-sop.pdf.
Missouri laws prohibit burying or composting in sinkholes, caves, mines, low-lying areas subject to flooding, ditches or at the base of a hill. Strict regulations exist regarding composting near water sources and setbacks exist for neighboring properties.
Rendering is one option to produce byproducts. However, there are limited options for rendering in Missouri. Rendering capacity and distance to facilities might be prohibitive, says Zulovich.
Some landfills accept dead animals. The MU Extension plan includes an overview of relevant state regulations. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources provides a map and listing of landfills at https://dnr.mo.gov/waste-recycling/sites-regulated-facilities.
Information presented in MU Extension biosecurity workshops, including important contact information, is at faculty.missouri.edu/limt/Biosecurity.shtml.