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We will have to make a hard decision about euthanizing a retired horse within a few months. My question is not about the merits of euthanization. It is about composting the body.

We do not have enough soil depth on this property to properly bury a horse. The rendering plants in the area have stopped picking up single horses, unless you really pay large sums to them. It is not possible to accurately schedule a pick-up, and you might wait several days for the pick-up.

The alternative being suggested by many state cooperative extensions is composting. The process is being used on-farm for chickens through dairy cows. A few links to the composting sites are below.

Has anyone on the list composted a horse, and was it completed without odor or other nuisance problems? My husband is dubious that the process won't create problems, and is reluctant to try this. We can provide the recommended distances to the stream, wells, and other houses. I don't want dogs digging the carcass up, or buzzards circling. I understand the dimensions and materials suggested for the compost pile.

http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs/other/files/SA8.pdf

http://composting.cas.psu.edu/MortalityProcedure09 .pdf

Composting Fact Sheets - Cornell Waste Management Institute
 

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Have not actually composted a horse but have looked into it very seriously. It is what we plan to do with ours when the time comes.

Last summer I dug in a pile that had several composted calves in it and there was no smell. We pulled up some bones, some with hair still on them.

I discussed it at length with the representative from Cornell and they said they have had very good luck with composting. If the pile is created correctly there should be no problems with vermin, etc. The Cornell brochure covers pretty much all of the requirements for the pile.


I think it is a great way to deal with a body.
 

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I think it's sad to waste several hundred pounds of meat because of the sentimental feelings we may hve for an animal. I have a horse that is in the later stages of navicular and before he gets too uncomfortable I will send him to slaughter. There are people in the world that don't have enough food and are starving. I can't see turning all that meat into plant food.
 

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I see nothing wrong with that solution either Kevin. But I am guessing that when the end is near for my horse he will have way too many meds in him to expect someone to eat him.

Composting is a great way to deal with a body that is not fit for consumption.
 

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I think it's sad to waste several hundred pounds of meat because of the sentimental feelings we may hve for an animal. I have a horse that is in the later stages of navicular and before he gets too uncomfortable I will send him to slaughter. There are people in the world that don't have enough food and are starving. I can't see turning all that meat into plant food.
It's becoming more common for truckers to not want to pick up horses. As Alwaysbehind said - narcotics in the system.

If someone has the facility and the follow through to compost - good for them.
 

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Another alternative near us is a facility called Lion Country Safari. Its kind of a drive-thru zoo. They pick the animal up for free and they are used as food for the lions.

The other alternative does cost a couple hundred dollars to have them picked up and brought to the dump. It is illegal to bury here due to the high water table, but I know several people who have paid well over $1000 to have their horse buried in a pet cemetary, I personally would not. I would say go with the compost if that is an option for you.
 

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Flitter, it's my understanding that the animal parks want live horses for their big cats.

They can't use already dead animals, because the carcass breaks down too quickly. Plus, they put the horses in quarantine for awhile, to make sure any drugs in their systems are out before they're processed for the cats.

Composting, slaughter, or donation to large predator parks are all good ways of disposing of a large animal if you're unable to bury it.
 

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I think it's sad to waste several hundred pounds of meat because of the sentimental feelings we may hve for an animal. I have a horse that is in the later stages of navicular and before he gets too uncomfortable I will send him to slaughter. There are people in the world that don't have enough food and are starving. I can't see turning all that meat into plant food.
I agree whole-heartedly with this statement. However when I lost my old boy 2 months ago, I couldn't do it. For one thing he actually died on his own, in an instant he was gone, but for another. I couldn't do it. We spent thanksgiving day digging a 7 foot by 9 foot hole. We placed him in it and covered him with a tarp before filling it in. I will probably plant a cherry tree over him this summer.

I think Kevin has a very smart suggestion. I just can't follow through with it. I'm not sure I could compost or burn either. The suggestions make sense to me, my heart just gets in the way.

Good luck to you.
 

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I would only take a horse to slaughter if I could a) transport it myself and b) watch it die before I left.
To many horses stand for DAYS packed together in a small area where they get injured or stressed... not the way I want my old faithful to go.

Again I would only donate my horse to the zoo if I could a) transport it myself and b) watch it die before I left.
Some big cat places (some not all) want 'lean meat' in which they starve the horse for several days in order to have less fat in the meat. Again, not the way I want my old faithful to go...

But if I could drop it off and watch it die, I'd be more than happy to donate and know its going to good use! :D
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Another alternative near us is a facility called Lion Country Safari. Its kind of a drive-thru zoo. They pick the animal up for free and they are used as food for the lions.
The other alternative does cost a couple hundred dollars to have them picked up and brought to the dump. It is illegal to bury here due to the high water table, but I know several people who have paid well over $1000 to have their horse buried in a pet cemetary, I personally would not. I would say go with the compost if that is an option for you.
Flitterbug, the transport and tipping fee here is now $600, in addition to the vet call to euthanize. There are no large animal parks in this area.

I think it's sad to waste several hundred pounds of meat because of the sentimental feelings we may hve for an animal. I have a horse that is in the later stages of navicular and before he gets too uncomfortable I will send him to slaughter. There are people in the world that don't have enough food and are starving. I can't see turning all that meat into plant food.
Kevin, I agree that it is a large waste of energy to dispose of the animal. The energy to make hay, transport feed, and all of the other items that have gone into his care over years are lost. However, the meat from slaughter would not go towards hungry people in any country. It is those able to afford horse meat in Europe and Japan that consume the slaughter meat from Canada.


When excess deer are culled from park properties here, the meat is processed locally for food pantries. If this horse could be processed in that manner, I would agree, and withhold drugs for a few days. A trip in a double-decker semi, for 12 hours is not a fitting end for a friend.

Slaughter is another complicated issue for a different thread.

I see nothing wrong with that solution either Kevin. But I am guessing that when the end is near for my horse he will have way too many meds in him to expect someone to eat him.
Composting is a great way to deal with a body that is not fit for consumption.
Alwaysbehind, this horse will have wormers and NSAID's in it's system, and will have other euthanasia drugs. I am not psychologically able to shoot this horse in the head.

Around here, we usually just burn it.
SillyBunny, Please see the pamphlet "Livestock & Poultry Mortality Disposal in Pennsylvania" Open air burning is illegal in PA because of air quality issues - like the smell of burning hair. Heaven help you if you get caught by a Township manager.


Thanks for everyone's comments. More are welcome.

http://www.pfb.com/news/ag-issues/09-Final Mortality Disposal brochure.pdf
 

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Thankfully, the barn I grew up on only delt with this once...

It was the middle of winter, the ground was too frozen to dig a hole...
What we did (I have no idea if it is legal or not) was place him along the edge of the woods and bush a brush pile on top of him, we added some manure later on... little by little throughout the winter we added some manure and kept adding brush, along with scrap wood, then in the summer we added some dirt/fill from a farm project, more manure, and more brush.

We never turned the pile. We just kept adding to it.

There was the small of rot/death mixed with manure over the first summer after a good rain but that was it, and it wasnt terrible, not like road kill on a hot summer. It was far enough away from the barn/house too, so perhaps that helped. But there was the very mild smell of composting rot.

Dogs are a problem in the area, both wild domesticated ones and coyotes, as well as the dogs on the farm! None of them ever touched it... Perhaps we put enough on top of him, or perhaps there is enough road kill and piles of guts from hunting season to keep them busy. They never even so much as looked at it when we road horses past them either.
 

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Agree whole heartily with kevin - use the meat! We recently had to get rid of an old boar hog - 800lb - they are only worth 5 cents/pound at the market - we took it to the butcher and its making wonderful dog food for our dogs. Ground and wrapped in 2# sasauge tubes;.)

Composting works - several chicken farms we work with compost birds all the time. On a larger note we also deal with a client that composts a lot of horses. They need to be covered with about 5 ft of manure so you don't have scavanger problems. The manure filters the smell somewhat. Should be just bones in a few months - works faster in warm months. You need a large pile of manure to make this work, not 20 wheelbarrow loads, more like 20 dump truck loads.
 

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Alwaysbehind, this horse will have wormers and NSAID's in it's system, and will have other euthanasia drugs. I am not psychologically able to shoot this horse in the head.
I am with you on that one! I am sure when it is time for mine they will be filled with drugs too.

I think composting is a safe and affective way to deal with the body.

My husband already has a place planned for our compost pile when the time comes.
 
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