Composting might be the most efficient way to dispose of dead livestock, the Carroll County Agricultural Commission was told yesterday.
The commission's dead animal disposal committee said in a preliminary report that Thomas Leidy, owner of a now-closed rendering plant in Westminster, would be willing to turn the vacant facility into a composting pit for dead animals and yard waste.
Mr. Leidy would sell the composted material for fertilizer, the report said.
However, commission members said they are not sure current zoning would allow the proposed plant because the facility, behind the TSC store, has been vacant for more than six months.
"We won't be able to proceed until we know for sure the zoning is OK," said commission member Frank Feeser. "If it had to go through the rezoning procedure, there might be a lot of concerns to handle."
Carroll County extension agent David Greene said county zoning officials haven't yet determined whether a composting pit would be allowed on Leidy Road.
Currently, dead livestock either are sold to a company that makes dog food and other animal foods from the remains or are buried on the owner's property. Commission members said they are concerned burial will become more difficult as development moves closer to farms.
"I am concerned that you [farmers] may be responsible for clean-up somewhere down the road," said commission Chairman Donald Essich. "I feel this is important [to create a composting facility] to protect farmers and the agricultural community."
Also, dead animal pickups -- at $20 per cow and $100 per horse -- are expensive for small farmers, commission members said.
"We think the large farmers will still have pickups," Mr. Feeser said. "But this will benefit the small, local farmers."
Commission member Jason Myers said he felt farmers would welcome a place to take dead livestock.
"I'd much rather have someplace to take it rather than find someplace on my property to bury it," he said. "We are all becoming more environmentally conscious."
Carroll County farmers have been seeking methods for dead animal disposal for about seven years, Mr. Greene said.
New procedures recently discovered by agricultural research teams at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore have made composting a viable option, he said.
"They composted over a ton of hogs and only had 86 pounds of bones left to dispose of," he said. "Now, most any size animal can be composted and the product spread on a field."