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Field testing of bone screening and beneficial reuse of large animal mortality compost

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Paper number  131596496,  2013 Kansas City, Missouri, July 21 - July 24, 2013. (doi: @2013
Authors:   Alica J Ketchem, Robert A Clark, Robert Peer, Gregory Evanylo
Keywords:   mortality composting bone screening Shenandoah Valley nutrient management.

Abstract. In recent years, disposal of large animal mortality (LAM) has become increasingly difficult for farmers. Burial, incineration, rendering, and landfilling have become more expensive and, in most cases, highly regulated. On-farm composting is a practical, economical, and environmentally sound way to dispose of LAM. However, LAM composting has not been adopted as rapidly as expected. One reason for the delayed adoption is the lack of a practical system for dealing with the bones that remain after the flesh is composted. As part of a 2011 USDA Conservation Innovation Grant, Virginia Cooperative Extension piloted a project to screen the bones from piles of composted LAM on four dairy farms and one beef farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and demonstrate the beneficial reuse of the screened compost material. An Orbit screen was used to successfully screen piles of compost ranging from 149 tons to 5 tons. An Allu Bucket/Grinder was used for a 21.5 ton pile. The screened material was then spread on crop fields. In some cases, the cost to screen the bones and spread the screened material was greater than the fertilizer value of the nutrients. However, the advantages of screening bones from LAM compost may outweigh the disadvantages. Producers can dispose of their LAM in a way that is in compliance with State regulation and, at the same time, utilize the organic matter in the compost to increase the soil health of their crop fields.

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