Options for the disposal of cattle carcasses

There are several options for disposal of cattle carcasses that meet regulatory requirements. See Ontario Regulation 106/09 Disposal of Dead Farm Animals for more information on all of the options and the specific requirements. The following are the three most common options presently used in Ontario for cattle.

Option 1: Licensed disposal facility or approved waste disposal site

Delivery to a licensed disposal facility (rendering plant) or an approved waste disposal site (e.g., landfill) within 48 hours after animal death.

In both of these scenarios, there are costs associated with trucking and tipping fees on either a flat per animal basis or on a tonnage basis.

A farmer may transport their own deadstock for disposal, although a permit from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is required. Transportation requires a vehicle that is leakproof, can be easily cleaned and decontaminated after use and the animals are kept from public view. If the animals are to be transported by someone else, it must be a licenced deadstock collector.

Licensed disposal facilities

Option 2: Composting carcasses on-farm

While composting is always an option, a substantial volume of substrate is required to successfully compost large volumes of cattle. CFIA has stated that compost from cattle deadstock may be spread on the farm, but they recommend that such compost not be spread on land used for pasture or growing hay.

Ontario Regulation 106/09 limits the footprint of any composting site to 600 m2 and a total volume of compost in any one site of 600 m3. A farm that is composting larger volumes of deadstock after a mass event (e.g., a barn fire) would either have to create numerous piles with adequate setbacks between them or request an Emergency Approval.

There are several challenges to using this method:

  • Keep the location of compost piles away from sensitive features:
    • 15 m from drilled wells
    • 30 m from dug wells
    • 100 m from municipal wells
    • 50 m flow path from nearest watercourse or tile inlet
    • 200 m from neighbouring houses
    • 100 m from neighbouring barns
    • 30 m from highways
  • Compost piles must not be located on organic soils, porous sandy soils (hydraulic soil group A or AA) nor soils having a depth less than 0.9 m to bedrock. Compost piles must be located at least 6 m away from field drainage tiles.
  • It requires large volumes of substrate material to build an absorbent base under the carcasses to prevent liquid from seeping out and to provide adequate cover (0.6 m) over the carcasses to prevent scavenging. The appropriate substrate contains adequate carbon containing materials to achieve a target Carbon: Nitrogen ratio in the pile for the aerobic microorganisms to break down. Suitable substrate materials include cereal or bean straw, corn stover, hay or silage, wood shavings or sawdust, poultry litter or bedded horse manure.
  • The windrow will need to be "turned" or inverted at least once during the process to re-blend the materials and introduce oxygen into the pile for the microorganisms to do their job of breaking down the carcasses.

Option 3: Burial of carcasses on-farm

In the process of decomposition, the greater the interaction between the soil organisms and the deadstock, the faster the decomposition. For this reason, O. Regulation 106/09 limits the volume of deadstock in a burial pit to 2500 kg. Therefore, one burial pit could include a maximum of three to four mature cows.

This option is strictly tied to site feasibility as location of the burial pit is contingent on soil conditions and setback distances from sensitive features to prevent contamination of groundwater since the carcasses will take a long time to breakdown. There must be a minimum 0.6 m of soil cover placed over the carcasses to prevent scavenging. Mound backfill over the burial pit to prevent water ponding on top of the pit and to account for soil settlement over time.

There are several requirements with this option:

  • Burial pits must be located:
    • more than 50 m from a drilled well
    • 100 m from a dug well
    • 250 m from a municipal well
    • 100 m from any surface water or tile inlet
    • at least 6 m from any field drainage tile
    • at least 15 m from lot lines
    • 100 m from barns located on adjacent properties
    • 200 m from lot line of land that is in a residential area, commercial, community or institutional use.
  • Burial pits are prohibited from being located on land that is included in the 1 in a 100-year flood plain, contains organic soils or soil that is classified as hydrologic soil group AA.
  • The lowest point of a burial pit must be at least 0.9 m above the top of the uppermost identified bedrock layer or aquifer.

Options #2 and #3 have a number of regulatory requirements that must be adhered to. If the farmer requires consideration beyond the regulations, they must submit a written application to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs requesting an Emergency Authorization under Ontario Regulation 106/09.

For more information on emergency disposal of on-farm deadstock call the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca.

Failure to dispose of deadstock properly poses a threat to the environment, public safety, cause nuisance complaints and is a provincial offence where an Agriculture Enforcement Officer from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks has the authority to investigate and place fins for violations under Ontario Regulation 106/09 Disposal of Dead Farm Animals.

Additional information

The following resources are available on the OMAFRA website.

Off-farm disposal options include:

On-farm disposal options include:

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca