In-service Training and Decision-Making Tools for Optimizing Livestock Mortality Management

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2009: $97,848.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jessica Davis
Colorado State University

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bovine, goats, sheep, swine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: manure management
  • Education and Training: technical assistance, decision support system, extension
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study, whole farm planning
  • Soil Management: composting


    Mortality management threatens the sustainability of livestock production in many ways. In recent years, concerns about mad cow disease reduced the availability and increased the cost of rendering services. Alternatives are needed that protect the environment from contamination and prevent the spread of pathogens from mortalities to living, productive animals. These alternatives must be affordable and ideally would also create jobs in rural America. Composting mortalities is an alternative that holds promise for the achievement of environmental protection, economic sustainability, and job creation.

    The project team includes: Extension and NRCS personnel with expertise in animal science, economics, and soil science; feedlot and dairy producers; and producer groups from Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. The team met annually face-to-face and by conference call as needed in order to facilitate cooperation in achieving project goals.

    Four educational products were developed:
    • a decision aid spreadsheet that evaluates the costs of mortality composting against other mortality disposal options,
    • a how-to-manual on mortality composting,
    • a video illustrating on-the-ground mortality composting, and
    • a PowerPoint presentation describing the spreadsheet, how-to-manual, and video and explaining mortality composting principles.

    These products were disseminated through in-service training for Extension and NRCS personnel, workshops for groups of consultants and emergency coordinators, and web-based training. We reached nearly 300 extension educators, NRCS staff and Technical Service Providers, consultants, producers, landfill managers, and small processors directly and many more indirectly through distribution of hardcopy educational materials and online access to those materials. These 300+ agricultural professionals have improved their knowledge-base in mortality management and will influence many more livestock producers. Ultimately, the economic and environmental challenges of proper mortality management will be better addressed through more widespread, high-quality mortality composting.

    Project objectives:

    • • To provide professional development opportunities for land grant extension faculty, NRCS field staff, and NRCS Technical Service Providers in the area of livestock mortality composting.
      • To develop tools for use by extension and NRCS professionals in extending mortality management information and decision-making tools to livestock producers.
    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.