Commentary: OFA seeking best means to safely handle deadstock

It’s something every live­stock producer knows – if you have live stock on your farm, you will have dead stock.

Safe disposal of dead stock is increasingly a problem in On­tario for farmers and soci­ety. For many years, farm­ers had a responsive and dedicated industry that a tele­phone call would summon – problem solved.

That came to a crashing halt when BSE was identified and new regulations for hand­ling specified risk material were imposed by CFIA. The re­sponsive and dedicated ser­vice had to face higher hand­ling costs and a severe restric­tion in markets available for the products they produced. More re­cently, the market for hides has collapsed, taking away an­other source of revenue for dead stock service operators.

As a result, farmers are faced with a fee for pick-up and disposal service.  Coupled with losing a valuable animal, that presents a double-sided hit.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has been working to find an acceptable solution that will keep valuable disposal services in operation, providing farmers with an affordable al­ternative to on-farm disposal of dead­stock.

A team was set up to ad­dress problems facing farming and dead stock industries. The operators reported on their efforts to change business plans and hand­ling methods to re­duce costs and improve revenues.  That will, in turn, allow for a lower cost to farmers for their services.

The task team also looked at the issue of specified risk materials and the ramifications for on-farm  disposal.  In Ontario, any compost contain­ing such materials cannot be moved from the composting farm location. Further, if it is spread on land, grazing on that land should be avoided for a five year period according to CFIA.

On-farm disposal also re­stricts proximity of burial to tile drains and water sources to ensure our water supplies re­main unaffected. That makes sense. Farmers always strive to guard against any risk of water contamination through their farm practices.

But how much land do these restrictions leave for on-farm disposal? How much land has sufficient soil depth to enable burial? How much of that land is not tile drained? How much pasture will be off-limits ac­cording to CFIA recommen­dations once spread with dead stock compost? And how long before all that available land is used up? Those are questions we are trying to answer.

These issues clearly under­score the need to maintain a viable deadstock collection and disposal business in Ontario.  However, the reduced volumes of dead stock being offered to disposal services by farmers continues to negatively impact the financial viability of service operators.

It is a catch 22. Higher pick-up costs have reduced volumes, further eroding the financial strength of the companies. There is no doubt additional costs of pick-up hurt, particularly when the industry is facing its own low prices for cat­tle. However, dead­stock must be disposed of in some fashion.

A telephone call to a licensed disposal service re­mains the simplest way to comply with all government regulations and avoid any po­tential liability down the road.

The OFA continues to work with the industry to determine measures that can be taken by government, the farming sec­tor, and the disposal indus­try to ensure viable and af­fordable disposal of farm animal carcasses. It per­forms a vital service for Ontario and needs to remain sound.

Keith Currie is with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture