Saturday, December 1, 2012

animal composting

I know this is a rather grim subject, but when you have livestock, you need a way to deal with animal carcasses in cases of unplanned and untimely death. Winter is certainly one of those untimely seasons to lose an animal, being that burial isn't really an option when the ground is frozen solid. And, unfortunately, it seems winter is when most animal losses occur.

The animal compost pile, about a third less high than when we originally made it. Next year I'm going to plant sunflowers around it. 

We first learned about this composting method after we lost our 'Stella goat. The first link on this website also has very well-researched and in-depth information on the subject. We used the same principles mentioned in these articles, but applied them on a smaller scale. We fenced off a small area in a spot away from the ponds and streams. We used pine shavings (A LOT of pine shavings!) as the composting medium, and after some initial wetting of the pile, it has pretty much taken care of itself. I've only turned it once (to see if things were actually decomposing in there - they were!) and we've added a variety of critters to it (chickens, mostly) since the original goat. In spring, we'll spread the compost around the trees on our property. I'm still reading up on using animal compost on fruit trees or in the garden, as there's some conflicting information about the safety of it.

Pine shavings are excellent for proper air circulation and water retention/drainage

A few benefits of composting carcasses as opposed to other methods are: 

*Less risk of groundwater contamination
*Less labor intensive than burial
*Less costly than cremation, and I like knowing our animals are still a part of this place after they pass. Plus, I do think dealing with the carcass yourself helps with the grieving process, and returning them to the earth in this way feels like a natural way to honor their contributions here.

Digging down into the pile reveals beautiful, rich compost

I hope all of this doesn't sound too clinical - death on our farm always has a profound effect  - but I wanted to share this because it really has worked for us. Having a system like this in place makes dealing with the death of an animal a little less stressful when the time comes.


  1. Interesting concept. I hadn't really thought about it in that manner before but it makes sense that it is something that is and can be done. I hope you are successful!

  2. That's a really good idea, especially since we butcher about 50 chickens a year and have at least two deer and two goats butchered here. Normally the offal gets hiked down to the back 40 and we just let the scavengers have at it, but this may be another option. Thanks for the information!

  3. We put our chickens that have died out for the predators to eat, at the foot of the pasture, as we believe they need to eat too. We put them far enough away from the chicken yards that they can't put "two and two" together.

  4. This is an awesome post. We compost chickens and fish, but never had we been forced to compost anything larger. (Thankfully.) But I know one day we'll have to, so thanks for detailing what you do.

  5. One question. What happens with the bones. I assume they remain. How do you dispose of them?

    1. I think really large bones do remain, but I've noticed most of the bones seem to decompose also. It just takes a lot longer! I just leave any bones in the pile, as the composting is ongoing.

  6. Grim, but useful info, Jamie! I like a complete cycle like that. Back into the earth where these animals lived. Good idea.

  7. I appreciate this post. Like everyone who keeps livestock, death and dealing with remains is reality. We've discussed this, but the link and articles are very useful indeed.

  8. Thank you for this post. Intense, yes...but very interesting and extremely helpful. I appreciate your intention :-)


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