The fire department was called out last Friday for a fire near Rodman. When they came back I asked one of the guys what the fire was and he told me that a farm compost pile had caught fire. Compost pile?!? I knew they generated heat, but to spontaneously combust?!? "It's the carcasses" he says. "They generate more heat than leaves."
"Yep. Farmers compost their dead critters."
But, I've always been told not to throw meat or dairy in my compost pile because it will attract varmits. And, what about the rendering plant guys. I thought they picked up the dead animals.
"Don't know anything about that," he said. "You need to talk to a farmer who has one."
And so I did. The farmer tells me that since the BSE (mad cow) scare, renderers don't have much of a call for their products so they've raised the price of picking up dead animals. "Used to be $10 an animal, now they charge as much as $30. That's just too expensive."
And so you "compost" them?
"Just cover them with manure and dirt."
Doesn't it smell?
How long does it take for the animal to...ummm.. disintegrate?
"Depends. Hogs pretty fast; cows take a couple of years."
What about the bones? Archaeologists dig up bones thousands of years old. Surely the bones take some time.
"Not really. Hogs completely disappear; cows' skulls and hip bones can take some time. But you can drive over them with the tractor and they just crumble."
(I don't even want to ask about the hoofs. The hoofs scare me.)
Can you use this "compost" in your fields like I use mine in my garden?
"Absolutely. But, actually, there's not much of a pile left after the bugs get through with it. I've been doing this for years and you really can't see much of a pile. Of course, this only works when you have one or two animals which die in a year. When the big hog confinements lose a couple of hundred hogs due to disease, then they call the renderers to dispose of them."