Disposing of livestock carcasses is an important part of animal agriculture. Wisconsin law says that carcasses must be properly disposed of within 24 hours from April through November and within 48 hours from December through March.
Rendering, burial, burning and landfilling have been the typical means of disposal, but these are becoming less and less practical. Burial and burning create biosecurity hazards and threats to water and air quality. Rendering remains the best choice to protect the environment, public health, and animal health, but it is becoming more expensive and less available.
Cattle carcasses in particular are becoming more difficult and expensive to send to rendering because of federal regulations. The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates animal feed and pet foods, now prohibits using parts from cattle 30 months or older in any food for animals unless the spinal cord and brain are first removed.
We recommend composting carcasses to overcome these problems. Remember that composting is an active process. Putting a carcass in the woods or on the back 40 to rot and/or be eaten by scavengers is not composting and:
- Risks disease transmission to your livestock, your neighbors, and to wildlife.
- May contaminate water sources — including your well and your neighbors’ wells.
- Invites vermin and pests, including coyotes, that may transmit disease and prey on your livestock.
- Alienates neighbors and generally casts farmers in a bad light.
- Is illegal.