Managing animal mortalities after an accident involving livestock

Learn how to properly dispose of animal mortalities should an accident occur during travel.

A field of cows.
Photo from MSU Flickr account

Unexpected, and sometimes tragic situations can arise when transporting animals between destinations. Many times, when animals are involved in an accident, they are either severely injured requiring euthanasia or death occurs. Proper planning for these types of situations is key in providing an effective and efficient response.

Should a traffic accident occur, it is important to know what mortality management options exist so that first responders, law enforcement officials, and those involved in the transportation of animals can properly manage the accident scene. Michigan State University Extension has created a helpful informational document regarding Mortality Management After a Rollover Event.

The mortality management options below are listed in order of what will likely be the most feasible to least feasible in a rollover situation. That being said, it is important to use the option that makes the most sense for your situation as this will allow for timely clean-up, public safety, and environmental soundness.

Under the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Bodies of Dead Animals Act (BODA), several options exist to manage mortalities appropriately in the state of Michigan:

  • Landfill
  • Rendering
  • Composting
  • Burial
  • Incineration
  • Other (with approval from the director of MDARD)


A landfill may be the easiest option as landfills are located throughout the state and can be easily accessible. The landfill must be a Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) licensed landfill and it is important to call ahead and see if the landfill accepts dead animals. Landfills are regulated according to where the refuse they are receiving comes from, meaning that landfills not only have a certain capacity they must adhere to, but also only accept waste (including potential carcasses) from certain towns, cities, and even counties. Because of this, the transport distance of the carcass from the accident site may vary. The closest landfill may not be an option given the above, which highlights the importance of calling ahead.


Rendering may be another option if the accident occurs near a rendering facility. Like landfills, a rendering facility must be licensed to accept animal carcasses; however, there are less renderers in the state than landfills. There are specific stipulations in place for animal carcasses taken to rendering facilities stating there may not be any kind of metal (bullets or shards) or barbiturates in their system. Because most accidents tend to involve metal and glass shards, it is unlikely that animal carcasses will be accepted by a rendering facility, though it is not impossible.


Composting is yet another acceptable option available for mortality management. This can be done on the animal owner’s property or another landowner’s property as long as permission is obtained from the landowner and the proper composting practices, contained in the documents below, are followed:

Additionally, when animal control is involved in the response, they may have a ready to use composting site, so contacting your local animal control may prove beneficial.

Another landowner’s property may be a more feasible option depending on how far the accident occurred from the animal owner’s property. Additionally, composting can occur at a registered composting facility, however, call ahead to see if the facility will take whole animal carcasses, as some do not.


Like composting, burial can occur on the animal owner’s property or another landowner with permission. This can be a good option if distance to the home farm from the accident site is an issue. Important requirements to follow for burial sites include not having contact with surface or ground water and sites being located at least 200 feet from wells. Individual (one animal carcass) and common (more than one animal carcass) graves are allowable based on the Bodies of Dead Animals Act page 3. Burial tends to be a limited option due to Michigan’s high water table.


Incineration may be used if the facility operating the incinerator has a permit through the Air Quality Division of EGLE. This mortality management option could be difficult if a large mortality event occurs due to limited incinerator capacity.

If an accident occurs, it is important to contact local authorities in the area to assist. For more information, please contact Erica Rogers or Sarah Fronczak.  

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