As swine producers hit hard by COVID-19 grapple with the last-resort decision of depopulation, Nebraska Extension is stepping up to help producers who are facing this challenge.
Composting is one of several ways that producers can dispose of animal carcasses. However, most don’t have access to the large amounts of carbon—such as mulch, hay, manure or lawn waste—needed to safely perform composting of large volumes of carcasses.
Benny Mote, swine Extension specialist, and Amy Schmidt, livestock bioenvironmental engineer and Extension specialist, both at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), helped launch DisasterCARE.unl.edu. This website allows municipalities, businesses or individuals with carbon materials to list their available products, and for producers to search for needed materials.
“This is an extremely difficult spot for producers to be in, both financially and emotionally,” Mote said, in a UNL news release. “Helping connect producers with a carbon source gives them one less thing to worry about.”
Those who wish to donate carbon sources can visit DisasterCARE.unl.edu, create an account, and fill out a simple form in which they provide information on the type of carbon they can provide, how much they have, where they are located and whether they can assist with loading or delivery. Producers in need can create an account to view and connect with suppliers of carbon sources.
“Our estimates had it taking nearly 20 semi loads of carbon to do above-ground composting of a 2,400-head finisher barn of market hogs,” Mote told Farm Journal’s PORK. “When the reality of producers needing to euthanize a large number of heavyweight hogs hit, we realized the only list we had in Nebraska for carbon was a PDF that was 5 years old. We wanted to make a ‘live’ list that anyone needing to find carbon could get an active list.”
The website accepts entries from any state, Mote said, because this issue does not stop at the Nebraska state lines. The site is searchable by county, and they hope a feature can be added in the future for the producer to enter in his barn address and put a radius on the search distance.
“While all states could enter in their data for big carbon sources, we hope that if the need really gets large, that word can go out to the public, specifically farmers, ranchers, and municipalities, that we are in need of large carbon sources that are available for donation/sale,” Mote said.
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