Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Environment protection licences

Dead stock disposal

See also

Animal Health Australia's Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN)

Please note that for disposing of over 20 head of cattle or 100 sheep, refer to the AUSVETPLAN disposal guidelines. These guidelines are in the process of being extensively updated.

Contents

Aim of this document
Introduction
Deciding on a method
Choosing a site
Building the pit
Handling the carcasses
Summary
Further reading

Aim of this document

This document describes how to dispose of dead stock in an environmentally friendly way.

Introduction

Whether one or many animals are to be disposed of, the procedure still carries the risk of polluting watercourses, producing odours, spreading disease and interfering with community amenity. It is important that authorised officers understand the most environmentally friendly way of disposing of stock.

Deciding on a method

If possible the carcasses should be used or rendered, so if animals are to be slaughtered, local abattoirs and knackeries should be contacted to find out the economics of getting them to do the work.

If the carcasses will have to be disposed of on the farm, it is very important to do the job quickly and thoroughly. Burning is rarely satisfactory; burying is usually better. However, with certain exotic diseases burning may be mandatory.

Choosing a site

If the carcasses must be disposed of on-site, the following points should be considered.

It is preferable to have:

  • a burial area at least 100 m away from houses and watercourses
  • the pit base at least 1 m above the level of the watertable
  • heavy soil of low permeability and good stability
  • good access to the site for earthmoving machinery and stock transport unless the stock are to be walked in for slaughter.

Avoid:

  • sites sloping towards watercourses
  • areas that are likely to drain to watercourses or groundwater.

Please note that the disposal location and quantity may trigger the requirement for a Waste facility licence under Schedule 1 of the POEO Act except in the case of an emergency mass animal disposal program which would then trigger emergency provisions.

Building the pit

  • The pit should be large enough to accommodate the number of carcasses to be buried.
  • It must be deep enough to take the carcasses and allow for at least 2 m of cover over the top.
  • At least 0.17 m3 per head should be allowed for mature sheep and 4 m3 per head for 450 kg cattle. Areas needed for larger cattle can be scaled up.
  • The pit should be only about 3 m wide, one blade width; narrow, deep pits reduce the need to move carcasses once they are in the pit.
  • When the pit is being built, the topsoil should be separated from the subsoil so it can be put back on top later. The surplus soil should be heaped up as overfill and the disturbed area should be regrassed.
  • Appropriate diversion banks should be built to stop water entering the pit and contamination diffusing from the site.
  • One long side of the pit should be kept clear of overburden and kept level. This will be used as the killing and disposal area. Topsoil should be placed at the ends of the pit or along the sides and separated from the overburden.

Handling the carcasses

To reduce swelling during decomposition the abdomens and paunches of all the carcasses should be opened to allow gases to escape.

The carcasses should be sprayed with sump oil if immediate burial or burning is impractical. They should be heaped up in a secluded spot away from watercourses and sump oil should be spread liberally over the heap. The oil discourages flies and scavengers. The heap can then be burned later.

Summary

It is important to dispose of stock in an environmentally friendly way.

If abattoir slaughter and disposal cannot be arranged, carcasses should be buried rather than burned. The pit should be big enough and built on stable soil away from houses or water.

Where carcasses can not be buried immediately, carcasses should be covered with at least 150mm of soil to prevent vector problems.

Further reading

Animal Health Australia's Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN)

NSW Agriculture 1986, Assessing bushfire burns in livestock, Agfact AO.9.46, Sydney.

Page last updated: 25 June 2013