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‚ÄčLivestock & Poultry Mortality Disposal in Pennsylvania

Livestock and poultry operations must decide which disposal option is best for their operation, taking biosecurity, herd/flock health, human health, safety, cost, time, equipment, labor, land/soils/water, and neighbors/nuisance issues into account, then implement a plan for proper mortality disposal. Domestic animal owners must follow the instructions of their chosen disposal method in order for it to be legally and professionally effective, as the owners are liable for the disposal.

Be mindful of neighbors, for people smell with both their noses and eyes. To minimize complaints, maintain a clean farm and establish buffers around farm buildings, burial holes, incinerators, and mortality disposal facilities. Make sure mortality composting or burial sites are covered by at least two feet of matter to sustain biosecurity.

For catastrophic mortalities (whole herd/flock, etc.), call the PDA Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services for more information and instructions at 717-772-2852.

All livestock and poultry operations must abide by the PA Domestic Animal Act's mortality disposal requirements:

    • The domestic animal must be properly disposed of within 48 hours of death
    • The carcass must not be exposed to other living animals or the public
    • While transporting dead animals, the health of other animals, the public, and the environment should not be threatened
    • Anyone who purchases or receives deceased domestic animals are obligated to be licensed by the PA Department of Agriculture

There are five legal options for the disposal of deceased domestic animals.


Mortality Composting: breakdown of organic matter to a stable material.

Convenient, Affordable, Low labor, Low Pests

    • Small animals (poultry, pigs, sheep, etc.) 
    • Large animals (cattle, horses, etc.) require a freestanding pile on well-drained or improved foundation

Incineration: animal remains are burned to ashes in a closed incinerator that is specifically designed for incineration.

Convenient, Costly, Time Consuming, Odorous

    • Open air burning is NOT legal
    • Due to air quality concerns, check with your local Environmental Protection Agency before incinerating

Landfill: animal carcass is buried at a licensed waste disposal site.

Convenient, Time Consuming, Odorous, Pests

    • Contact your local landfill to determine if they're licensed to accept and transport lifeless animals

Burial: place dead animal in ground and cover with dirt.

Equipment Required, Costly, Time Consuming, Possibility for Contamination

Burial site must be:

    • Outside 100-year flood plain (law)
    • Minimum of 100 feet from waters (law), wells, sinkholes, and property lines (200 feet recommended)
    • Covered by at least two feet of soil within 48 hours (law)
    • Not visible to the public

Bottom of burial site should be:

    • At least two feet above bedrock, seasonal high water table, and highly permeable soils

It is recommended that farmers seek guidance from a local county conservation district, extension office, or USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office for assistance.

Rendering: animal waste tissue is converted to useable materials at a licensed rendering facility.

Convenient, Low Labor, Costly, Biohazard Concerns

    • Animal pick-up should be distant from animal housing

For more information, see the following resources and organization websites:

Please contact your local regional office if you have further questions or would like to report a case of improper disposal.