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Constructing and managing a horse carcass compost pile

Quick facts

  • Review your state’s regulations on livestock carcass disposal.
  • When managed properly, composting can be an environmentally-friendly and low-cost option for carcass disposal.
  • Routinely check piles for cracks or exposed carcass and cover as needed.
  • Check pile temperatures daily for 10 days after construction and turning. 
  • Turn the pile when temperatures steadily decline below 130 F.

Why should you compost a horse carcass?

Compost pile with horse in the center

In Minnesota, the Board of Animal Health has approved four methods for disposing of horse carcasses including rendering, burial, cremation and composting. Limited rendering availability, high cremation costs, and the practicality of burial can make disposing of horse carcasses challenging.

Carcass disposal is important since improper carcass disposal can harm the environment and ecosystem. Another option horse owners should consider is composting.

Composting refers to the managed breakdown of organic material, such as a horse carcass, into finer particles by microbes. You can use the end product of carcass composting as a soil addition in agricultural fields or flower gardens. When managed properly, composting can be an environmentally-friendly and low-cost option for carcass disposal.  

Review state regulations

Many states provide regulations for the disposal of livestock carcasses. Reviewing your state’s regulations can help you decide if horse carcass composting is right for your farm and will better prepare you for composting.

In Minnesota, the Board of Animal Health regulates livestock carcass disposal. For more information on state guidelines and preparing a compost site, contact the Minnesota Board of Animal Health at 651-296-2942.

Ingredients for a carcass compost pile

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Steps for constructing a compost pile

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Managing a horse carcass compost pile

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Authors: Hannah Lochner, graduate student, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS); Krishona Martinson, Extension equine specialist, and Melissa Wilson, Extension nutrient management and water quality specialist; Alex Bianco, assistant professor and Lee Johnston, professor of swine nutrition and management, CFANS; Mark Hutchinson, University of Maine Cooperative Extension; Katherine Dentzman, University of Idaho

Reviewed in 2020

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