Experts focus on animal mortality management to protect against diseases

Experts focus on animal mortality management to protect against diseases
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA

BUSHLAND, TX (KFDA) - People traveled from countries like Kenya and Australia to attend the International Symposium on Animal Mortality Management, with a goal of learning best practices to protect humans and animals against diseases caused by animal remains.

The 6th International Symposium on Animal Mortality Management focuses on best practices and techniques to address catastrophic loss of livestock.

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"If we had some bio terrorism incident where we lost a lot of cattle, we need to be prepared to dispose of all of that cattle in an environmentally friendly way," said Brent Auvermann, Center Director for Texas A&M AgriLife Research. "So that it doesn't pose a risk to human health or to other animal health or to the environment."

"Behind me are a couple of compost piles where we've been trying to get rid of two 1,400 pound dairy cows," said Auvermann. "After about three months on a 1,400 pound animal, we expect to see quite a bit of carcass still present."

Another approach is an underground burial, which experts say could work in our area with suitable soil and 180 feet until you hit ground water.

"We dug a trench so they can go in and look at what the different horizons are," said Dr. Robert DeOtte, a professor at West Texas A&M. "They also have some parameters set up so they can look at how water leeches to the different types of soils, how permeable it is, how fast it moves."

Another emergency response to a large loss of cattle could be alkaline hydrolysis.

"I wouldn't call it boiling them, but it takes a very caustic solution and dissolves the entire carcass," said Auvermann. "What's left after that is a nutrient rich material that can be neutralized and used as fertilizer."

With over one third of cattle in the United States located within 150 miles of our area, experts say this planning is essential.

"We're mostly about trying to figure out how to deal with animal mortalities because they happen and sometimes we have to deal with worst case scenario," said Dr. DeOtte. "Hopefully, raising questions about how we need to go back and figure these things out a little bit better than we knew them before."

The conference ends tomorrow with a stimulated exercise dealing with a cattle loss event at the hands of severe weather.

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