Composting Cattle Cuts Costs

US - Composting livestock mortalities can be an efficient and inexpensive method of disposing of on-farm mortalities, Amanda Douridas, Champaign and Union Counties AgNR at Ohio State University Extension.
calendar icon 25 November 2013
clock icon 3 minute read

Rendering facilities are becoming harder to come by and so are landfills that accept mortalities, states Mrs Douridas.

Transportation costs are increasing as well. Composting offers a year round alternative that may be more cost effective than other disposal methods. Once the compost cycle is complete, the finished product can be land applied to the farm's fields as a nutrient resource.

To start composting livestock mortalities, one must complete a certification course taught by OSU Extension. This course teaches producers how to properly compost mortalities. It covers topics like where to place the compost site, how large of an area is needed, how to manage a pile to compost completely and efficiently, and the economics of composting mortalities compared to other disposal methods.

In the past, the only option for certification was to attend an in-person course that usually lasted around 2 hours. (Find three such opportunities around Ohio coming up next week listed in the Beef Team web Calendar.)

This worked well for the initial surge of participants when it was created over 15 years ago. But, now that many have become certified (over 4,400), the trainings are becoming more infrequent throughout the state. These courses are still available but are offered on an as needed basis, so producers may need to wait a few months before one is offered in the state.

Online Course: Due to the sporadic demand for this course, we have created an online course that Ohio farmers are able take when they have time and at a pace that is right for them. The same material is covered and a short quiz is used to test their understanding of the composting process.

To enroll in the online course, participants go to and click on the "Agriculture & Animals" category. The course title, "Mortality Composting," with Amanda Meddles listed as the teacher is found towards the bottom of the page. The course fee is $17 and can be paid online at the time of enrollment.

Once enrolled, students can begin watching the lessons. There are 8 lessons that match the 8 chapters in the Mortality Composting manual. The total time needed to view all 8 lessons is 3 hours. The lessons can be view in one sitting or spread out over several days. Each lesson is a PowerPoint presentation with the presenter's voice recorded over it.

Once participants have viewed all of the lessons and feel comfortable with the material, they will be required to achieve an 80 per cent score on the 25-question, multiple choice quiz. Participants have three opportunities to pass the quiz.

A 24-hour window between attempts allows for ample time to review the materials. Questions are randomly chosen from a bank of 70 questions so some variation in each quiz attempt will occur. Upon passing the quiz, a certificate will be created with the student's name on it. This should be printed and kept for proof of successful completion.

The online mortality composting certification course is a convenient way for Ohio farmers to learn how to properly compost mortalities in an efficient, economical and sustainable way.

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