Texas livestock producers suffering animal losses because of Hurricane Ike need to make sure they follow protocol when disposing of carcasses, said two Texas AgriLife Extension Service engineers and other state officials.
The Texas Animal Health Commission is conducting ground and aerial surveys of the storm’s aftermath, but hundreds of head of livestock are expected to be reported dead in the wake of Hurricane Ike. The searches are focusing on the southern parts of Chambers and Jefferson counties, where the hurricane’s storm surge flooded thousands of acres of ranch land.
"Improperly handled dead animals in large numbers are a potential threat to water and air quality, and possibly human health as well,” Dr. Brent Auvermann, an AgriLife Extension waste management engineer in Amarillo. “They have to be disposed of with deliberate care and attention to the environment."
The key is for individuals who are trying to bury a few animals to stay in compliance with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulations, Auvermann said.
Many of the state regulations might be hard to meet in this situation, so for Texas Commission on Environmental Quality rules and publications on disposal of carcasses, go to www.tceq.state.tx.us and click on “Hurricane Response: Ike” and look under “Managing Storm Debris”.
A sample affidavit giving a description of the number of carcasses and a general description of the burial location is available from the commission. The commission’s approved Affidavit of Facts or an affidavit providing a description of the number of carcasses and a general description of the burial location may be used.
Contact the regional Texas Commission on Environmental Quality office that serves your county or their central office at 512-239-0436 for assistance obtaining these documents.
Dr. Saqib Mukhtar, AgriLife Extension waste-management engineer in College Station, also reminds people that some Type I landfills may accept dead animals but it would be wise to check with the landfill personnel before taking dead animals to the premises.
A list of Type I landfills and their locations is available in the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s “Managing Storms Debris” Web document.
The Texas Animal Health Commission is coordinating the disposal of carcasses with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in situations where there a large numbers, said Carla Everett, information officer for the animal health commission.
Anyone with large numbers of dead livestock can contact the Texas Animal Health Commission’s area command at 800-550-8242, ext. 296.
Responders will need to know how many animals, the species and the location. If someone has global positioning system coordinates, that’s even better, Everett said.
AgriLife Extension specialists say composting might be a reasonable and potentially cost-effective alternative to incineration, burial and rendering. It may take up to three months for calves and yearlings to compost and twice that for a full-grown steer or cow.
Mukhtar said there are other alternatives to burying the animals, but increased costs of diesel fuel have made rendering and incineration costly.
Both Mukhtar and Auvermann say composting might be a reasonable, and potentially cost-effective alternative to incineration, burial and rendering. It may take up to three months for calves and yearlings to compost and twice that for a full-grown steer or cow.
The catch, Auvermann warned, is a compost pile can't just be thrown together and expected to work.
"Get some help," he said. "You need the right mix of materials, a secure site away from surface water and uncapped wells, and a front-end loader, at a minimum."
Mukhtar noted that the compost materials don't have to be perfect, but the pile does have to be built properly on the correct site and tended closely, especially for the first two weeks.
"If things look good for the first couple of days, the temperature in the center of the pile rises quickly above 130 degrees and there's not a lot of rancid odor coming from it, just keep on doing what you're doing," he said.