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Follow state-approved methods for burying carcasses of livestock killed by wildfires

Monday, April 16, 2018

Recent wildfires have left some agricultural producers contemplating burial of deceased animals as the most expedient way of disposing of livestock carcasses.

“Burial is perhaps the most common method of carcass disposal, but livestock producers need to remember there are state-approved guidelines that must be followed,” said Clint Rusk, head of Oklahoma State University’s department of animal science.

State criminal statutes require the following:
● It shall be unlawful to bury any carcass in any land along any stream or ravine where it is liable to become exposed through erosion of the soil or where land is subject to overflow at any time;
● It shall be unlawful for any person to leave or deposit the carcass of any animal, chicken or other fowl, whether it shall have died from disease or otherwise, in any well, spring, pond or stream of water; or leave or deposit the same within a quarter mile of any occupied dwelling or any public highway without burying; and
● Every person who violates the two preceding sections shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Furthermore, burial of dead livestock and poultry requires the construction of a pit. The bottom of the burial pit must be at least one foot above any floodplain level and at least two feet above the seasonal-high water table. If there is bedrock in the area, the bottom of the pit must be at least two feet above the bedrock.

“The burial pit must be located at least 300 feet from any wells, waters of the state, neighboring residences, public areas or property lines,” Rusk said.

Carcasses must be covered with a minimum of two-and-a-half feet of topsoil after placement in the pit. Burial pits should be routinely inspected to ensure wild animals do not dig up and drag carcasses away.

“Be aware that licensed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and Registered Poultry Feeding Operations must receive permission from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry’s Agricultural Environmental Management Services (AEMS) Division prior to burial,” said Jeremy Seiger, AEMS director. “We will work with non-licensed operations to provide guidance as well, and are well aware of the animal disposal challenges everyone faces because of the wildfires.”

AEMS can be contacted by phone at 405-522-4659. ODAFF regulates livestock and poultry mortalities in the state.

“Wildfires are a time when we often see catastrophic mortality losses,” Rusk said. “Catastrophic losses are defined as any death loss that exceeds the capacity of the current disposal system to accommodate those losses within 24 hours.”

Additional information about options livestock producers can use to dispose of carcasses is available by reading OSU Extension Fact Sheet ANSI-8219, “Proper Disposal of Routine and Catastrophic Livestock and Poultry Mortality,” available online at and through all OSU Cooperative Extension county offices, typically listed under “County Government” in local directories.

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