Incineration: Part of Biosecurity

Every pork producer has to deal with dead-animal disposal. But there's more to it than simply eliminating the carcasses; the process is critical in terms of keeping the rest of your herd healthy.

The method and procedures involved with dead-animal carcass disposal has to be part of your biosecurity plan. They also have to be part of your employee training and management scheme.

There are multiple options when it comes to disposing of dead-animal carcasses. Incineration is just one of those options, but in today's pork production climate it's gaining appeal.

There are biosecurity advantages of burning dead-animal carcasses thoroughly on the farm rather than employing a rendering truck or burying them. First and foremost, it reduces the prospect of them spreading disease organisms. Another benefit that quick incineration – within 24 hours – offers is it greatly reduces odor and fly problems.

Safety and efficiency are priorities in the incineration process, and Michael Inman, Bladen County, N.C., shares his observations and suggestions here with Pork. They are based on five years of experience incinerating carcasses on his farm, as well as those involved with Prestage Farms. All Prestage Farms" units, as well as the company's contract producers, incinerate dead-animal carcasses.

Inman says incineration is not a difficult task, but it requires training and dedication. He stresses that each person involved in the process should:

  • Thoroughly understand the proper procedures.
  • Follow the same steps each time.
  • Always pay close attention to the process.

Following are some additional observations and suggestions that Inman has to share.

1. To eliminate a bio-hazard, Prestage-owned hog farms no longer use these types of ramps to unload carcasses into a dead box. "Even though rendering trucks never went any closer to buildings than the dead boxes, manure and dirt from other farms could fall onto the driveway and be tracked to our hog buildings," notes Inman.

2. The large incinerators at this Prestage unit is used for sows and grow/finish pigs. The other incinerator is for afterbirth and baby pigs. The dock is handy for both. "We locate incinerators at least 75 feet away, preferably more, from hog buildings," notes Inman.

3. Dead-animal carcasses are incinerated at the end of most workdays, Inman points out. Doing it every 24 hours greatly reduces odor and fly problems.

Before starting up the incinerator, he suggests checking the burner and oil lines for leaks. Then correct any problems before starting up the machine.

"To burn thoroughly, you have to load properly," says Inman, "We don't place more than 700 pounds in the large incinerator, 200 to 300 pounds in the small one. If it looks like there is not space for another sow, you're probably right." If there's not enough for a full load, the timer is set to singe for an hour.

4. It is extremely important for good air circulation and thorough burning to leave at least 10 inches between the burner and carcasses. "Be extremely careful not to damage the fuel nozzle," he emphasizes. Check and recheck spacing of contents before igniting the burner.

5. After loading the incinerator, set the digital temperature and time controls. Inman says he sets the large incinerator at 1,250'F, the small one at 1,175'F. To ensure that the burner has ignited, raise the chamber door 1 to 2 inches. If there is no flame after 30 seconds, shut the controller off immediately.

"Thorough burning is vital, but so is avoiding overheating because it damages the incinerator," he notes. "Be sure the flame cuts off at 1,300'F. If the temperature ever exceeds 1,400'F, shut down the burner and fix the problem."

6. In the event that the temperature exceeds 1,300'F. The digital control may need to be adjusted. "We check temperatures after the first 30 minutes and again in 60 minutes to make sure the temperature is right," says Inman. "Not only do temperatures above 1,300'F waste fuel, they also can damage the incinerator."

7. When the afterburner is set correctly, you will see no smoke. "Sometimes it takes a few minutes to get the air-band adjusted. Usually 30 to 45 minutes is long enough to run an afterburner," says Inman.

Always be extremely careful not to let any equipment bump an incinerator. The firebrick lining is easily cracked or broken.

8. Black smoke is a bad sign. It shows that the air intake needs to be opened.

9. Don't let residue build up more than 10 to 20 inches deep. "After the incinerator has run for 12 hours, we rake and stir the contents to ensure thorough burning," says Inman. The crew cleans it out in the morning after the incinerator and residues have cooled off.

"We fill trash bags with the residue and they go to the county landfill or we spread it on the farm at a distance away from hog buildings. We are careful to make sure soil contents do not exceed environmental regulations," he adds.

It is important to wear a face mask and goggles because the powdery residue causes irritation.

Inman adds another word of caution: "Always keep the ash clean-out door closed during the burn cycle because you do not want anyone to get burned."