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Carcass Compost Service Pays Off
Brent Woodrum and his son Bart started a carcass composting service on their farm. They feel they’re doing a service for their community by cleaning up dead critters.
  “My family has been farming here in Kentucky for three generations,” says Brent Woodrum. “When I started farming in 2003, I knew where the boneyard was, but decided not to drag anything more back there.”
  Woodrum tried covering carcasses in manure. By the time he spread the manure in the spring, the carcass had disappeared. He studied the idea, with help from Dr. Steve Higgins at the University of Kentucky, and realized wood chips were the way to go.
  They start by covering the carcass in wood chips and leaving it undisturbed for at least 80 days. At least 8 cu. yds. of wood chips are used for every 1,000 lbs. of carcass. The animal is placed on a 2-ft. deep chip bed and covered to a depth of 4 ft. with chips.
  “I realized we had the land to do this, and it could be a good sideline if we set up a commercial site,” says Woodrum.
  He got about $35,000 in grants to get started. It took $30,000 in gravel for the pad and $15,000 for a trailer. The pad is 26,000 sq. ft. and consists of 14 in. of rock over filter fabric on a clay soil base. Water can penetrate, but the rock and compost material is retained. Wood chips piled on top of the pad provide cover for the dead animal and absorb nutrients released in the composting process. The finished compost is spread on Woodrum’s fields.
  He expects the current site to hold between 600 and 700 large animal carcasses and is already planning to expand the site. Woodrum also is negotiating with a slaughterhouse about taking their offal. About the only things he won’t take are dogs and cats that have been euthanized, as the chemicals used may not break down quickly enough.
  The Woodrums charge a sliding fee based on the size of the animal, starting at $72.50 and dropping to $42.50 for anything less than 600 lbs. The local conservation district reimburses half the cost to encourage use of the service. Fees are reduced for multiple animals from a catastrophe, such as when a customer lost three steers to blackleg. Fees are also reduced if the animal is delivered. Otherwise, the Woodrums respond to pickup calls with their “mobile rendering facility” trailer.
  “We picked up 20 animals the first month, but fewer the next month,” says Woodrum. “The following month was pretty busy. We found the best way to get a call was to unhook the trailer.”
  Woodrum thinks setting up such a site is a good idea. He worked closely with state and county officials in getting needed permits. “Our county has really treated us well, and we have commitments from four counties in total,” says Woodrum.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Large Animal Composting of Kentucky, c/o Bart Woodrum, 235 Griffith Ridge Rd., Liberty, Ky. 42539 (ph 859 583-7761; woodrumbart@yahoo.com).

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2013 - Volume #37, Issue #1