The search for sustainable deadstock solutions
By Lilian Schaer for Livestock Research Innovation Corporation
On-farm mortalities are an unfortunate reality of livestock farming, even though it’s something producers go to great lengths to avoid. At the same time, farmers have also long faced on-going challenges in accessing practical and economical solutions for handling and disposing of animals that die unexpectedly on the farm.
“Deadstock is not just a farm issue. It also impacts veterinarians, transporters, processors, renderers, waste management companies, municipalities and regulatory agencies,” says Mike McMorris, CEO of the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC). “And through One Health, the interconnectivity of animal, human and environmental health, it also has broader societal implications, so it’s a problem in need of solutions.”
According to McMorris, there has been little innovation in recent decades in how deadstock is handled. The industry still largely relies on rendering, which means on-farm pick up of dead animals. This has become uneconomical and unsustainable across large parts of Ontario due to escalating costs for pick-up companies. It’s not a new issue, however, as farmers have faced disruptions and service cuts for decades, but it’s now time for a different and hopefully more permanent solution, he says.
“We have to take a fresh look at the issue, recognizing the new focus on One Health and investigating the topic from international and innovation perspectives,” he says, adding there is a clear desire by everyone involved for innovative solutions and opportunities.
LRIC has received funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) to lead a project that will hopefully do just that.
A Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis will examine current opportunities and barriers to those dealing with livestock mortalities in Ontario; expansion, growth and retention of businesses currently providing those services in the market, and factors that have contributed to companies and service providers leaving the industry.
The project will also take a view beyond Ontario’s borders to look at how other jurisdictions tackle the problem of on-farm livestock mortalities and what options and practices they use, or research they’ve conducted, that might be suitable for application in Ontario.
A traditional end-use for meat from animals that die on-farm has long been the pet food industry. And while this continues to be an option, the project also includes a market analysis for use and sale of other end products stemming from by-products of deadstock management systems.
Finally, the research team will explore the suitability and practicality of various options, including:
- Transfer stations. Could centrally located facilities serve as pick up/drop off points for renderers and farmers needing to access deadstock management services? As an interim solution, these could help to alleviate challenges posed by Ontario’s large geography and increasing transportation costs that make on-farm pick up unviable for many farmers and service providers.
- Waste management companies and municipalities. Do waste management companies and associations, municipalities and landfill sites have the capacity to accommodate possible deadstock pick up and disposal options at their facilities?
- New long-term options. How could solutions used in other jurisdictions or innovations identified as having potential for Ontario be adapted to serve the livestock industry in this province?
The project has come about as a result of a request by LRIC members to OMAFRA for help in addressing the livestock mortality issue with both short-term relief for farmers and long-term options that will result in practical and sustainable solutions.
“Farmers work hard to ensure they keep their herds healthy, but unfortunately, deadstock is part of the reality of livestock farming and food production, so we must find solutions that will work for everyone involved,” notes McMorris.
A final report is expected in 2023.
This article is provided by Livestock Research Innovation Corporation as part of LRIC’s ongoing efforts to report on research developments and outcomes, and issues affecting the Canadian livestock industry. It was originally published in the December 2022 edition of Ontario Beef.