Horse carcass disposal
Legal options for carcass disposal
Burial can be the most cost effective option if you own the equipment to prepare the site. This may not be an available option in all areas of the state. The BAH states that the carcass must be:
5 feet above the high water level
Covered with 3 feet of soil
In soils that are over 10 feet away from bedrock
Following these regulations will prevent groundwater contamination.
Burial should include a sufficient soil cover to prevent carcass exposure by burrowing, digging, or scavenging animals and erosion. During winter months, breaking the ground for burial may be difficult or not an option until spring.
Composting can be an environmental friendly option for an equine carcass. Compost needs managing (adding water and nutrients and rotating the pile when needed), and thus more labor intensive.
In some states, you must build a compost site. In Minnesota, compost sites need roofs and must be on an impervious (i.e. cement) pad. The BAH will assist individual horse owners in designing composting sites. Contact the BAH for more information: 651-296-2942.
Managing a compost pile
West Texas A&M University studied equine carcass composting. They found that a 50/50 mix of cattle manure and hay waste, or horse stall waste, worked better than 100 percent stall waste when composting equine carcasses. Researchers placed a single carcass on a bed of chopped straw before adding other materials. Adding pre-composted materials before the carcass can help jumpstart the process.
Compost piles should be about 50 percent moisture. Too much moisture can cause compost to leach harmful chemicals into the soil. It can also displace oxygen within the pile, which can result in unpleasant odor and substances toxic to plants.
Temperature can help you decide if the process is working properly. Temperatures in the pile can reach 131 to 155 F within 24 hours. These temperatures should remain for a few weeks to a month. Sustained high temperatures destroy most pathogens and weed seeds.
Turning the pile
You should turn the pile every three months. After three months, only a few large bones should remain. At six months, no identifiable pieces should remain. If working properly, the entire process (from start to finish) should take about seven to nine months.
Cremation can allow horse owners to retain a physical part of their horse, but can be expensive. A burn pile on the property can’t attain a complete incineration and isn’t a legal. Generally, state-licensed facilities must complete incineration and follow strict emission and temperature guidelines. In Minnesota, the Department of Health (MDH) is the administering agency.
Rendering is an option for carcass disposal, but costs $150 or more per pick up. There are two companies in Minnesota that take equine and other large animal carcasses: Central Bi-Products Company and Darling International, Inc. The University of Minnesota doesn’t endorse these rendering services but aims to provide horse owners with legal carcass disposal options.
Fur farm and pet food manufacturers commonly use livestock carcasses. Fur farms may not take animals that were chemically euthanized as the solution may harm their animals. Only rarely are horse owners allowed to directly "drop off" carcasses at these facilities.
The State of Minnesota regulates these options and involves the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Pollution Control Agency (PCA) and Board of Animal Health (BAH).
Reviewed in 2018