Mass Mortality Options & Resources

May. 13, 2020

By John Foster

As we all are aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected several areas of our lives, the most recent issue has risen with hog processing plants slowing or stopping production creating a backlog of market-ready hogs. Leaving producers with thousands of market-ready hogs per day. Producers may discontinue investing in a product that will not meet market specifications nor have the space for the animals, requiring the herd may be culled. According to the USDA there are approximately 2.5 million hogs with 35 million commercially slaughtered in Iowa per year. The USDA has the livestock data points for a number of animals per county and total in the state along with production numbers.  

As an organization, we strive to keep our members informed and organize a statewide approach to solid waste management issues such as carcass disposal. While this is not new, many of those on the generating end tend to be. We want to pass along resources for you to assist with any discussions. 

This is a good time to provide general mass mortality management options and resources to our members. An important message to producers is to determine the disposal management method, onsite burial, mortality composting, rendering, incineration or landfilling, prior to culling. We need to keep in mind one management method does not address mass mortality management, it takes a combination of methods.

On-site burial

On-site burial option is available as long as Iowa Administrative Code 567 Chapter 100 is observed. The DNR has an interactive map to assist with siting locations.

Mortality Composting

Mortality composting is an option if land and sufficient bulking agents are available. This method must be utilized in accordance to IAC 567 Chapter 105. A couple ways our members could provide assistance is with providing assistance with sourcing bulking materials, mainly clean wood waste, for this process and land for this operation. If there are issues with specific requirements of the rule, DNR staff indicated they are willing to review variance requests. 

For details on this process, see Livestock Mortality Composting Protocol.

A recent training session was provided by Iowa State University and may be made available in the coming week. 


Rendering is an option yet this industry is the same as all other manufacturing industries and may run into the same staffing issues at their facilities and may be unable to increase its capacity to meet the demand levels. 


Landfilling of carcasses should be the last option for management. The receiving facility should evaluate the request in relation to its airspace capacity, design sequence, operational capacity and political implications. The decision to accept or reject, acceptance criteria and fee is set by each organization. Important questions to ask the generator are what options were evaluated, the numbers of animals, preferred delivery method, and time frame needed. Operational practices to consider are whether to dispose the carcasses in an active working area or establishing a separate working area. Additionally, the landfill should consider what the impact of exposure is to operators and customers, and finally, what may be the long-term impact to the existing operational systems within the landfill (leachate and landfill gas management).  


DNR has shared its latest mortality management survey with producers and a copy is provided on the website. If there are any changes please contact the DNR to update its listing. If your organization is able to assist with providing wood waste for the potential for mortality composting, please contact Dr. Rumsey with Iowa Department of Agriculture at [email protected]