Composting Drowned Turkeys

Composting Drowned Turkeys

by Nancy Trautmann

Remember the massive flooding along the Mississippi River in 1993? One of the casualties of a flash flood in central Missouri that summer was a group of 20,000 turkeys!

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources advised the turkey farm owner that composting would be the easiest and safest way to dispose of the carcasses. Over 150 neighbors helped to collect the dead birds, haul sawdust from local sawmills, and build the composter. Three large round hay bales were arranged in a U-shape to provide the walls for the 60-foot-long by 5-foot tall windrow. A foot of sawdust formed the bottom layer, which was covered with alternating layers of turkey bodies (which are high in nitrogen) and sawdust (which is high in carbon).

The turkeys composted for three months, during which no problems occurred with rodents or odors. The temperature rose above 55°C (130°F) for one week during this period. The finished compost was applied to farm land as a fertilizer.

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Cornell Waste Management Institute ©1996
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Bradfield Hall, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853