4 Easy Steps for Composting Dead Livestock

(AS1781, Revised December 2021)
Publication File:

Dead animals are an inevitable part of a livestock operation. Livestock owners can dispose of dead animals by composting. This guide offers step-by-step instructions for a livestock owner to follow.

Lead Author
Lead Author:
Mary A. Keena, Livestock Environmental Management Specialist, Carrington Research Extension Center
Other Authors

Paige Brummund, Ward County Extension agent
Alicia E. Harstad, Stutsman County Extension agent
Penny L. Nester, Kidder County Extension agent  

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Publication Sections


  • Base material: straw, old hay, coarse crop residues (corn stalks)
  • Bulking material: manure or spoiled fermented feedstuffs
  • Cover material: straw, old hay, sawdust

Step 1

Place 2 feet of base material in pile or long row, depending on number of dead livestock to be composted.

tractor placing hay for a base

Step 2

Lay dead livestock on top of base. Have at least 1 foot of base material between perimeter of dead livestock and edge of base.

tractor laying dead livestock on hay

Step 3

Cover dead livestock with 8 to 10 inches of bulking material.

tractor laying bulk material over dead livestock


Step 4

Cover the entire pile or long row with 2 feet of cover material.

dead livestock compost pile with hay on top

Things To Remember

  • Small-sized dead livestock can be layered next to or stacked on top of one another given there is bulking material between them so they are not touching.
    • If composting ruminants, puncture the rumen to prevent it from exploding.
  • Make sure pile always has sufficient cover material to keep bulking material and dead livestock covered.
  • Turn pile every six months from early spring to late fall.
  • To accelerate composting, turn pile every two months from early spring to late fall.
  • Existing compost can be used to cover new piles or long rows.
    • Screen/sort any remaining bones out of the compost before spreading to prevent puncturing equipment tires.