BioCycle Magazine

Biocontained mortality compost using liquid manure

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During disease outbreaks, composting has been used to safely dispose of carcasses and infectious solid manure. However, optimized methods have not been established to use liquid manure (> 80% water content, WC) from dairies as the substrate for mortality composting. In April of 2007, a 3x2 factorial study was conducted in wooden compost bins (240 x 240 x 140 cm) lined with 0.5 mm plastic to a height of 50 cm. Three levels (LO, 95 kg; MED, 236 kg; HI, 606 kg wet wt.) of liquid manure (91% WC) were applied to barley straw containing a single calf mortality (avg. wt 130 kg). Compost temperature and carcass degradation were evaluated in each bin over 52 d. As an indication of compost efficiency, viability of 4 types of weed seeds (wild buckwheat, Polygonium convolvulus L, BW; dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, DL; stinkweed, Thlaspi arvense L., SW; and wild oat, Avena fatua, WO) was determined from seeds retained at the laboratory (Control) or from those placed in sealed nylon bags (50 µm pore size) embedded at 3 locations in each bin. Initial C: N ratios ranged from 58:1 (HI) to 68:1 (LO), while initial WC was 64, 52 and 42% for the HI, MED and LO treatments, respectively. Rate of compost heating and peak temperature (58.6 vs. 46.5°C) was increased (P < 0.05) for HI as compared to LO. Rate of temperature decline was lower (P < 0.05) and calf decomposition was visibly superior for HI as compared to LO. Viability of WO was eliminated by all compost treatments, but that of BW increased (P < 0.05) in MED and LO as compared to Control. Although HI did not eliminate WO viability, this treatment showed the the most promise for incorporating liquid manure as a substrate in contained mortality compost.

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