Sustainable Livestock Mortality Management

Final Report for ENE08-108

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2008: $169,425.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Mark Hutchinson
University of Maine Extension
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Project Information

Summary:

According to the 2005 USDA Agriculture Statistics, there are over 7.2 million cattle, 1.3 million hogs, and 801 million chickens in the Northeast. All livestock operations have mortalities at an average rate of 5-7% that need to be managed, and USDA Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans(CNMP) must include methodology for sustainable carcass management. Composting carcasses is an economical and environmentally sound alternative to rendering and burial for sustainable carcass management that has been successfully demonstrated for poultry, horses, cattle, sheep and hogs. It also reduces bio-security risk because it decreases transportation and potential exposure to other livestock. However, Extension educators and other agricultural service providers needed training to be able to teach and advise farmers about this practice.

The Northeast Carcass Management (NCM) Team trained 55 Agriculture Service Providers from Cooperative Extension, NRCS, State Agriculture agencies and private consultants on sustainable carcass mortality management using static aerated composting methodology in Pennsylvania, New York and Maine. Training was provided through a combination of field-based workshop and webinars, although field-based trainings were preferred by the participants. A resource notebook containing fact sheets, DVD’s, article reprints, posters, and NRCS standards and a website with educational resources were also provided to support the project trainees. After learning through the project, the “55 trainers” provided 57 regional and local training programs for 3,000 participants who included other additional agricultural service providers and livestock producers in all thirteen NESARE states. The trainers provided research-based information showing that composting carcass mortalities is economically and environmentally sustainable. An additional 2,400 received mailed information on carcass mortality management, bringing the total number of people educated on this topic to 5,400.

As a result of this program, 97% of (n=27) agriculture service providers surveyed now strongly recommends composting as a carcass disposal management tool. The “55 trainers” indicated via telephone interviews that over 450 producers are currently using use compost as their primary carcass management tool. Survey responses from 79(n= 94) livestock producers indicated that 46 (58%) use compost as a carcass mortality management tool. All livestock producers that compost believe the process is cost efficient and sustainable. The following producer story illustrates the benefits farmers are finding in this sustainable mortality management tool.

Ray, a large dairy operator, developed a carcass compost management plan in 2009 after attending one of the project’s regional education programs. Ray used to pay $75-$100 per carcass to have the animal hauled away or buried. He now has a designated compost area for carcasses, which is accessible year round, is able to dispose of mortalities in less than 20 minutes, at a cost of less than $20. He has developed a market for the finished compost product which has added an additional income source to the farm. The reduction in mortality management cost and increased income has helped maintain the sustainability of the dairy farm.

Performance Target:

Three years after training 60 Agriculture Service Providers across the Northeast SARE region in sustainable carcass management through composting, 500 farmers will adopt composting as carcass management practices-Project duration 4 years.

Introduction:

The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education (NESARE) region has a wide diversity of livestock operations. According to the 2005 USDA Agriculture Statistics, there are over 7.2 million cattle, 1.3 million hogs, and 801 million chickens in the Northeast. However, there are regional differences in the specific livestock raised, for example, Maryland’s Delmarva Peninsula has broiler operations and Vermont a small dairy industry. All livestock operations have mortalities, an average rate of 5-7% that need to be managed. States and counties need to develop carcass management plans to respond to disease outbreaks and natural or man-induced disasters. Use of traditional methods of disposal, rendering and burial, are becoming less available.

Rendering services serve fewer areas because of transportation, cost and lack of markets for by-products. There has also been a decrease in the number of products renderers can produce, for example, rendered material can no longer be included in livestock feed, because of the chance of zoonotic diseases being passed through this feed. In other regions, the cost of rendering has increased three to four fold. In upstate New York, parts of Vermont and northern Maine, rendering services are no longer available at any price.

Burial is still legal in most areas. However, many soils in the northeast are shallow and wet, creating an anaerobic environment where little or no decomposition takes place. If the carcass does decompose, nutrients released can move easily into groundwater. In 1989, 400,000 chickens in Maine were buried in a deep pit. Two years later because of groundwater contamination, the birds were exhumed. Whole carcasses were uncovered along with a horrific stench, as they were exhumed they were successfully composted and the final material field applied after 10 weeks. In many areas winter burial is not an option, because of snow or frozen soil.

Producers need an economical and environmentally sound alternative for sustainable carcass management. Producers have looked to Cooperative Extension for educational material on alternative management and NRCS for siting and protection of resources. To serve our clients, Extension Educators and other agriculture educators need to be trained in alternative methods of carcass management, primarily composting. On-farm composting has been successfully demonstrated for poultry, horses, cattle, sheep and hogs. On-farm composting reduces bio-security risk because it decreases transportation and potential exposure to other livestock. This method provides a sustainable alternative to current management options.

USDA Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans(CNMP) must include methodology for sustainable carcass management. Agricultural service providers have little or no training in appropriate disposal methodology. Few technical bulletins are available that address this issue.

Agricultural service (AS) providers, specifically Extension and NRCS staff, are interested in attending on-site, hands-on training in best management practices concerning carcass management. Participants also want to create a network of resources for working with farmers to implement new management strategies.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Jean Bonhotal
  • Craig Williams

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
Accomplishments:

Publications

This program used emerging technology to educate Extension and NRCS staff on sustainable livestock carcass management methodology and policy. The four-year project was a collaborative effort with University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Penn State Cooperative Extension and Cornell Waste Management Institute. Representatives for each institution formed the Northeast Carcass Management Team.

In year one, the Northeast Carcass Management Team conducted three “Train-the-Trainer” workshops in southern Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and Maine. These intensive two-day training sessions immersed participants in sustainable carcass management through composting. Participants received information in the following areas of carcass management: composting methodology, compost site development, compost feedstocks, compost recipe development, pile management, bio-security, compost utilization and development of a catastrophic management plan. Regional trainings were tailored to the livestock industry most common in that area. Teaching techniques included hands-on, field experiential learning, group discussion, and lecture. Three webinars were used for further trainings. This allowed nationally recognized experts to participate in the trainings.
A packet of resource teaching tools including fact sheets, DVD’s, article reprints, posters, and NRCS standards was provided to each participant. Each location was limited to 20 participants to facilitate hands-on learning; a total of 55 staff were trained. Regional training helped with recruitment of participants and reduced travel for participants. Participants were recruited through brochures, email networks and state SARE coordinators.
Regions that sent multiple participants were encouraged to form teaching teams. The teams were expected to develop regional trainings for livestock producers and other AS providers. This facilitated continued professional development and local training programs. This reinforced the concept and increased dissemination and implementation of the practice.

Members of the Northeast Carcass Management team provided instruction at all three workshops. The audience was comprised of AS providers (51) and livestock producers (4). Of the AS providers, 13 worked for Cooperative Extension, 24 from state agencies and 7 federal agents. The remaining AS were private consultants. Trainers were encouraged to actively engage with livestock producers with on-farm demonstrations, field days and to monitor management changes. In addition, 42 AS and 6 livestock producers were provided training in Lancaster, PA. in 2012.

In year three and four, program evaluations were conducted through telephone follow-up calls to “SARE 55” participants and an electronic survey to livestock producers and Agricultural Service providers. The information was used to determine the short-term impacts of the training and educational programs. The evaluation was also used to determine continuing professional development needs and to determine if the performance target was achieved.

This professional development was unique because it developed a support network for participants through the formation of teams. With regional teams, task and workloads become less daunting and more attainable. The Northeast Carcass Management team supported regional teams in the development and implementation of livestock producer programs. This team approach was used successfully to help agriculture service providers improve information dissemination, and increase management adoption by producers.

In 2010, a website www.umaine.edu/byproducts-symposium/ for an international symposium was established. This website contains educational material on carcass and animal tissue management, policy and response. This website includes all of the information and is accessible to all NESARE participants and producers. Penn State and Cornell Waste Management Institute http://cwmi.css.cornell.edu/mortality.htm also have extensive web sites with educational materials on many aspects of Mortality composting. Feedback from users of the websites has been positive.

In 2010, the NCM team conducted a phone survey with the “NESARE 55” group. One of the questions was to assess who was still actively involved in carcass management education. We found that seven of the participants had actually changed jobs an additional fourteen were no longer involved in carcass management issues for a variety of reasons. However, twenty- three of the participants have become regional contacts for sustainable carcass management.

Core group (60) will participate in two video teleconferences to share successes and evaluate program progress. Year 3 (2010): This milestone was completed and reported in 2009. Even though the webinars were well attended, less than 33% of the “NESARE 55” attended the webinars. The webinars were designed for the “SARE 55” but open to the general public. The “SARE 55” group preferred to get information through hands-on workshops or written material.

The core group will form 20 teams which will host 50 educational programs for producers and agricultural service providers, transfer information through agricultural events and write articles for agriculture publications. Of the 20 teams, 12 will use video teleconferencing as part of their training. Years two and three of program (2009-2010).

Members of the NCM team in conjunction with members of the “NESARE 55” held 57 Sustainable Carcass Management training programs during over the four years of the project. These programs provided research-based information to over 3000 participants. Participants for these programs were Agriculture Service Providers, producers and policy makers. The total number of training programs presented by service providers exceeds our milestone of 50. However, none of the programs involved videoconferencing.

Additionally, over 2400 people received mailed information about sustainable carcass management for routine and catastrophic events.

Only three of the fifteen teams formed during the initial training worked together to provide regional training programs. Hence, the majority of the training programs were presented by individual service providers working in their local area. Geographic distance, time and change of program emphasis were all cited as reasons for not working in the teams. A stronger emphasis on team formation before attending the initial training may help to strengthen this area.

Conduct a program evaluation to trained trainers through an electronic survey and telephone follow-up. This milestone was partially completed in 2011. Using Survey Monkey, all Ag service providers were surveyed about compost as a management tool. The survey showed that 97% of Ag Service Providers recommend composting as a best management practice. The number increased to 100% if the Ag Service Provider has attended a training provided by Cooperative Extension.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

a. Outcome data and discussion
Follow-up telephone conversations in 2010 with the “SARE 55” and an electronic survey in 2011 of livestock producers and other Agricultural Service Providers indicate that composting is now an acceptable carcass mortality management tool.

Data from telephone follow-up conversations indicate that over 450 farms use compost as their primary carcass management tool. “SARE 55” participants reported providing training and information on carcass mortality management to 3,000 clients.

In 2011 the NCM team conducted an electronic and paper survey of 24 agricultural service providers and 197 livestock producers to access the implementation of compost as a sustainable management tool. Thirty-three agriculture service providers and 94 farmers completed the survey. The survey had a 17% return rate from 8 of the 13 NESARE states and several states outside the NESARE region.

In 2008, only 10% of agriculture service providers recommended composting as a carcass management tool. As a result of project’s education programs, 97% of the 27 agriculture service providers surveyed in 2011now recommend composting as a carcass disposal management tool. The rate of recommendation was 100% if they had attended a composting training program. Information gathered from the agricultural service providers indicates that over 500 producers are currently using or planning to use compost as a carcass management tool.

Forty six of the 79 livestock producers who responded to the 2011 survey indicated they use compost as a management tool. Pennsylvania and Maine had the highest rate of return. Most livestock operator respondents had between 50 and 500 animals. There were three surveys returned from farms with over 1000 animals. Thirty-four producers reported that carcass composting has a positive economic impact. A third of those composting did so as result of attending a NESARE training program within the last four years.

Livestock producers that are not composting indicated that more information was needed to implement a program. They had concerns over cost, efficiencies and bone management. The preferred alternative method of disposal is burial. We anticipate continual increases in the number of producers using compost as a management tool as farmers are slow to adapt and report management practices.

As a result of the Train-the-Trainer program, the NCM leadership team presented education programs on carcass composting management throughout the USA, including, Virginia, West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota and Michigan. This program continues to have a positive effect on sustainable carcass management methodology, implementation and policy not only in the Northeast but nationwide. For large poultry and swine operations in-vessel compost technology is emerging as a new and acceptable method of mortality management. In-vessel compost technology is an area where more research and professional development is needed. The topic was briefly introduced in the last training in Lancaster, PA. Drum composters are not new but they use different technologies and when not used optimally farmers can have problems.

The NCM team has verified and exceeded the performance goal of 500 farmers using compost as a sustainable management tool.

b. Beneficiary outcome story
Ray, a large dairy operator, developed a carcass compost management plan in 2009 from attending a regional education program. Ray used to pay $75-$100 per carcass to have the animal hauled away or buried. He now has a designated compost area for carcasses, which is accessible year round, is able to dispose of mortalities in less than 20 minutes, at a cost of less than $20. He has developed a market for the finished compost product which has added an additional income source to the farm. The reduction in mortality management cost and increased income has helped maintain the sustainability of the dairy farm.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

This program used emerging technology to educate Extension and NRCS staff on sustainable livestock carcass management methodology and policy. The four-year project was a collaborative effort with University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Penn State Cooperative Extension and Cornell Waste Management Institute. Representatives for each institution formed the Northeast Carcass Management Team.

In year one, the Northeast Carcass Management Team conducted three “Train-the-Trainer” workshops in southern Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and Maine. These intensive two-day training sessions immersed participants in sustainable carcass management through composting. Participants received information in the following areas of carcass management: composting methodology, compost site development, compost feedstocks, compost recipe development, pile management, bio-security, compost utilization and development of a catastrophic management plan. Regional trainings were tailored to the livestock industry most common in that area. Teaching techniques included hands-on, field experiential learning, group discussion, and lecture. Three webinars were used for further trainings. This allowed nationally recognized experts to participate in the trainings.
A packet of resource teaching tools including fact sheets, DVD’s, article reprints, posters, and NRCS standards was provided to each participant. Each location was limited to 20 participants to facilitate hands-on learning; a total of 55 staff were trained. Regional training helped with recruitment of participants and reduced travel for participants. Participants were recruited through brochures, email networks and state SARE coordinators.
Regions that sent multiple participants were encouraged to form teaching teams. The teams were expected to develop regional trainings for livestock producers and other AS providers. This facilitated continued professional development and local training programs. This reinforced the concept and increased dissemination and implementation of the practice.

Members of the Northeast Carcass Management team provided instruction at all three workshops. The audience was comprised of AS providers (51) and livestock producers (4). Of the AS providers, 13 worked for Cooperative Extension, 24 from state agencies and 7 federal agents. The remaining AS were private consultants. Trainers were encouraged to actively engage with livestock producers with on-farm demonstrations, field days and to monitor management changes. In addition, 42 AS and 6 livestock producers were provided training in Lancaster, PA. in 2012.

In year three and four, program evaluations were conducted through telephone follow-up calls to “SARE 55” participants and an electronic survey to livestock producers and Agricultural Service providers. The information was used to determine the short-term impacts of the training and educational programs. The evaluation was also used to determine continuing professional development needs and to determine if the performance target was achieved.

This professional development was unique because it developed a support network for participants through the formation of teams. With regional teams, task and workloads become less daunting and more attainable. The Northeast Carcass Management team supported regional teams in the development and implementation of livestock producer programs. This team approach was used successfully to help agriculture service providers improve information dissemination, and increase management adoption by producers.

In 2010, a website www.umaine.edu/byproducts-symposium/ for an international symposium was established. This website contains educational material on carcass and animal tissue management, policy and response. This website includes all of the information and is accessible to all NESARE participants and producers. Penn State and Cornell Waste Management Institute http://cwmi.css.cornell.edu/mortality.htm also have extensive web sites with educational materials on many aspects of Mortality composting. Feedback from users of the websites has been positive.

In 2010, the NCM team conducted a phone survey with the “NESARE 55” group. One of the questions was to assess who was still actively involved in carcass management education. We found that seven of the participants had actually changed jobs an additional fourteen were no longer involved in carcass management issues for a variety of reasons. However, twenty- three of the participants have become regional contacts for sustainable carcass management.

Core group (60) will participate in two video teleconferences to share successes and evaluate program progress. Year 3 (2010): This milestone was completed and reported in 2009. Even though the webinars were well attended, less than 33% of the “NESARE 55” attended the webinars. The webinars were designed for the “SARE 55” but open to the general public. The “SARE 55” group preferred to get information through hands-on workshops or written material.

The core group will form 20 teams which will host 50 educational programs for producers and agricultural service providers, transfer information through agricultural events and write articles for agriculture publications. Of the 20 teams, 12 will use video teleconferencing as part of their training. Years two and three of program (2009-2010).

Members of the NCM team in conjunction with members of the “NESARE 55” held 57 Sustainable Carcass Management training programs during over the four years of the project. These programs provided research-based information to over 3000 participants. Participants for these programs were Agriculture Service Providers, producers and policy makers. The total number of training programs presented by service providers exceeds our milestone of 50. However, none of the programs involved videoconferencing.

Additionally, over 2400 people received mailed information about sustainable carcass management for routine and catastrophic events.

Only three of the fifteen teams formed during the initial training worked together to provide regional training programs. Hence, the majority of the training programs were presented by individual service providers working in their local area. Geographic distance, time and change of program emphasis were all cited as reasons for not working in the teams. A stronger emphasis on team formation before attending the initial training may help to strengthen this area.

Conduct a program evaluation to trained trainers through an electronic survey and telephone follow-up. This milestone was partially completed in 2011. Using Survey Monkey, all Ag service providers were surveyed about compost as a management tool. The survey showed that 97% of Ag Service Providers recommend composting as a best management practice. The number increased to 100% if the Ag Service Provider has attended a training provided by Cooperative Extension.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.