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

    Proposal abstract:

    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 will meet annually face-to-face and monthly by conference call in order to facilitate cooperation in achieving project goals. Four educational products will be 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 will be disseminated through in-service training for Extension and NRCS personnel, field days on cooperating farms, and web-based training. We estimate that this project will reach over 400 extension educators, NRCS staff and Technical Service Providers, consultants, producers, landfill managers, and small processors. These 400 professionals will increase their knowledge about mortality management and learn how to share their new knowledge with others through the use of the WSARE-developed educational tools. In the long-term, many of them will use the new products to extend the dissemination of this information to a broader audience. Evaluation of short-term outcomes will take place through pre-tests prior to in-service trainings, field days, and web-based tutorials followed by the identical post-tests taken after the sessions. Medium-term outcomes will be assessed through a questionnaire that measures the preparedness of educators to train others in mortality management. Long-term outcomes will be quantified through Survey Monkey questionnaires emailed to trainees several months after the training regarding their use of the educational materials and audience sizes.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    To provide professional development opportunities for land grant extension faculty, NRCS field staff, and NRCS Technical Service Providers in the area of livestock mortality management.

    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.