On-Farm PED Deadstock Disposal in Cold Weather


Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PED) was confirmed in Ontario in January 2014. The risk of PED transmission between farms is high. On-farm biosecurity is critical to keep this serious virus out of your barns. Producers with PED infected deadstock should work with their deadstock collector to minimize the risks of transmission, or consider on-farm mortality disposal alternatives. This Infosheet discusses options for PED deadstock disposal on-farm in cold weather. Additional information on deadstock disposal is also found on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food
(OMAF) website

Actions for On-Farm PED Deadstock Disposal in Cold Weather

Some key principles for PED deadstock disposal during cold weather include:

a) Establish a Line of Separation:

Identify and mark a clear line on the barn property across which equipment, personnel, and materials should not cross, or should only be crossed with the appropriate biosecurity protocols. Put up a sign on something large and sturdy that won't blow away. Use bright colours visible in the snow. Put your phone number on the sign so delivery people or approved visitors don't accidentally cross the line to find you. Lines of separation are already part of most farms' biosecurity protocols, but the boundaries may not be obvious in winter as existing signs may be obscured by snowbanks. String some ropes to establish a boundary. Define the area clearly.

b) Deadstock Collection:

If deadstock is normally picked up by a deadstock collection service it is important to contact the collector when PED is found so that steps can be taken by both the producer and collector to mitigate the risk of disease spread.

c) Access Existing Information for On-Farm Disposal:

Information is available outlining the four recommended on-farm deadstock disposal approaches: composting, use of a disposal vessel, burial and incineration. These approaches are approved under the deadstock regulation and are designed to minimize environmental risk. Most PED mortalities are piglets; therefore the information for small animal deadstock disposal is most relevant.

  • OMAF's website contains information about on-farm disposal techniques as well as Ontario's deadstock disposal regulations and how they apply:
  • Detailed information about disposal options is available in OMAF's Deadstock Disposal Best Management Practices (BMP) book. This BMP book is available at your local OMAF Resource Centre or online.

d) Minimize Traffic On and Off the Farm:

Minimize traffic coming on and off the farm to prevent the spread of PED, and ensure any vehicles coming on to your farm are following your biosecurity protocol. Traffic might include equipment to dig a burial pit, deliver compost substrate, or deliver or install new equipment such as a tank for a disposal vessel, an in-vessel composter, or a freezer. PED survives well in cold conditions making movement of contaminants from snow surfaces onto tires or vehicles a risk. Steps to minimize risk include:

  • Keep digging equipment for deadstock disposal away from the barn site. Consider snow-blowing a temporary laneway to the compost/burial location across the field and away from the barn.
  • Keep delivery people or approved visitors beyond the line of separation or the end of the lane, not at the barn.
  • Keep farm tractors for hauling deadstock, compost material, or equipment away from the disposal site until the disposal site is established and no further off-farm traffic is expected at the disposal site.
  • Clean and disinfect tractors, excavators, and other equipment after being on-site at the PED-infected farm. Follow cold weather disinfection procedures such as those provided by Ontario Pork.

e) Timing of Deadstock Disposal:

Updated deadstock regulations were enacted in 2009. According to the regulation, dispose of deadstock within 48 hours of death unless they are kept in cold or frozen storage. Cold weather makes cold storage easier. If deadstock are kept in frozen storage (inside or outside), they have to be kept on the farm where they died, in a leak-proof container, and covered up or out of public view. Keep deadstock secured to prevent scavengers from accessing them. Deadstock can be kept in cold storage for up to 14 days following death. While the regulation allows frozen storage for up to 240 days, for PED deadstock long-term storage is not recommended since the virus can survive for months at freezing temperatures, increasing the risk of virus transmission. Storing piglet deadstock in freezers is permitted until a disposal site is prepared. If deadstock are to be composted, it is recommended that they are added to the compost pile unfrozen.

f) Composting:

Proper composting of deadstock disposes of the carcasses and creates temperatures that destroy the PED virus. Piglet deadstock will compost well in a properly designed passive windrow compost pile, even in cold weather. With a good recipe, cold compost materials will start to heat up within a few hours and remain in this heated state throughout the compost period. Do not add frozen deadstock to the compost pile. To prevent freezing during start-up, substrates should be as dry as possible. The unfrozen deadstock will provide the moisture for the pile.

For compost designs and recipes, see the Deadstock Disposal BMP (p. 57) and the OMAF factsheet, Windrow Composting of Poultry Carcasses. Composting piglets is similar to composting poultry deadstock as described in the factsheet.

Getting the right compost substrate materials is important, particularly when it's cold. While wood shavings are expensive, they are readily available from sources that supply the dairy and poultry sector (check the classifieds ads in local farm newspapers). On-farm materials such as very dry manure (>30% dry matter), hay, and silage, or clean off-farm materials (wood shavings) are all good substrates. If possible, do not use manure from the PED-infected barn as a substrate ingredient in the compost pile since hauling manure out of a barn or storage with a high infection rate will increase the risk of transmission off-site.

Compost that reaches proper composting temperatures should provide sufficient treatment to eliminate the PED virus. Turning and monitoring deadstock compost piles as described in the Deadstock Disposal BMP will result in the best treatment of materials. The deadstock regulation requires keeping the compost piles at least 6 m (20 ft.) from tile drains. See the suggestions in the Burial Section if tile spacing doesn't allow for this separation.

Quick Steps to Compost in Winter:

For more detailed information see Windrow Composting of Poultry Carcasses.

  • Clear snow from the compost site and the area where substrate materials will be temporarily piled. Use a non-swine neighbour's tractor to prevent contamination of other delivery vehicles.
  • Bring in small square bales, shavings, hay or other substrates and warm solid non-swine manure to the site prior to bringing deadstock or tracking barn contaminants to the site. Bedding pack manure from beef or dairy is best as it will stay warm from breaking down and composting, even in the cold.
  • Create a 3 m X 3 m (10 ft. X 10 ft.) foot box with square bales.
  • Lay down a 30 - 60 cm (1 - 2 ft.) deep base layer of substrate (shavings, hay etc.).
  • Bring unfrozen deadstock to the site. Lay piglet carcasses so they are not touching. Larger animal carcasses should be 30 cm (1 ft.) apart from each other. Keep carcasses at least 20 cm (9 ins.) away from the edge.
  • Add manure or silage on top of the carcasses to initiate pile heating. If the carcasses are frozen and it's freezing outside, add up to 15 cm (6 ins.) of warm solid manure to get the compost heating.
  • Put down another 15 cm (6 ins.) layer of substrate, and add more piglet carcasses. Use thicker substrate layers (up to 30 cm (1 ft.)) if carcasses are larger. Continue until the pile is 1.5 - 2 m (4-6 ft.) high and cone-shaped.
  • Cover the completed pile with an additional 60 cm (2 ft.) of substrate.
  • One of these piles requires about 6 - 8 cubic meters (8 - 10 cubic yards) of substrate. Generally, using more substrate is better than using less.
  • As an estimate, use about 1.5 - 2 cubic meters (2-3 cubic yards) of substrate for each 1000 kg (2000 lbs.) of piglet deadstock.
  • Monitor the compost pile for scavengers. If digging is evident, re-cover dug up spots with substrate. Use large square bales or stack the walls higher to reduce scavenger access.
  • As an alternative, construct the compost pile inside a heated and ventilated farm building, if only dealing with a small amount of mortalities. Monitor indoor piles regularly for over-heating.

g) Disposal Vessels:

Though not commonly used in the swine sector, a disposal vessel is an excellent option for PED deadstock. A disposal vessel is a tank that is leak-proof when installed in the ground. Deadstock is added without any extra substrate and the deadstock decompose in the tank. Disposal vessels are a good option during an outbreak of sickness because they contain the contaminated deadstock in one spot for a long time as biological breakdown occurs. This minimizes the risk of transmission or seepage of any contaminants. The disposal vessel can be a clean old tank (feed bin, water tank, etc.) and should not contain any leftover materials. If making modifications to the tank, ensure there is no chance of fire or explosion caused by any liquid or vapour in the tank. Repair all holes to prevent seepage. According to the deadstock regulation, a disposal vessel must be at least 16 m (50 ft.) from a tile drain.

Quick Steps to Installing a Disposal Vessel in Winter:

For more detailed information see Disposal Vessels for On-Farm Deadstock.

  • Find a leak-proof tank with a maximum volume 10 m3 (2500 US gal). Ensure there are no residual liquids or vapours present and seal shut any drain holes. Cut a hatch opening large enough to drop in carcasses. Ensure there's a vent hole or vent pipe at the top. Install a lid on the hatch opening with a lock on it for safety purposes.
  • Pick a tank volume based 1:1 on the volume of deadstock. Determine deadstock volume by assuming carcasses have the same density of water (i.e. a 2 kg (5 lb) carcass is ~ 2 L (0.5 US gal) in volume). If placing frozen deadstock in a disposal vessel, budget for at least 25% extra volume.
  • Dig a large hole in a dry non-tiled area. Don't pick a low area or a spot that will be wet in the spring since even a heavy tank can "float" up out of the ground if surface or ground water fills the loose soil space around the vessel. Place the vessel mostly submerged in the hole, with about 60 cm (2 ft.) of the vessel remaining above ground. Back fill and compact the dirt around the vessel, slope the dirt against the vessel walls to shed water. Remove the digging equipment to avoid contamination.
  • Place the carcasses in the vessel. Do not add any substrate or other materials.
  • Close and lock the lid.

h) Burial:

Burial of mortalities is an acceptable method in the deadstock regulation. A large excavator is needed when digging in frozen ground, but in many cases the ground is only frozen in the first 30 - 60 cm (1 - 2 ft.) particularly when the ground is snow-covered. Dig the burial pit in a long and narrow shape, as described in the Deadstock Disposal BMP (p.89). Alternatively, dig a large auger hole (at least 30 cm (1 ft.) in diameter). Place the burial pit at least 6 m (20 ft.) from the tile drain to minimize the possibility of seepage in the spring. In systematically tiled fields with 12 m (40 ft.) spacing, identifying the tiles in winter and finding a spot with sufficient setbacks may be difficult. If you have to bury on tiled land, use the excavator to cut the tiles up and downslope of the burial location. Finding the upstream and downstream tiles will be difficult on frozen ground.

Quick Steps for Burial in Winter:

For more detailed information see Burial of On-Farm Deadstock

  • Clear the snow from the digging area and the dirt piling area.
  • Dig a narrow trench 60 cm (2 ft.) wide, 90 cm (3 ft.) deep, or dig a 30 cm (1 ft.) wide auger hole 2 m (6 ft.) deep. Use a large excavator for frozen ground. Dig safely.
  • Dig in an area away from tile drains and wet areas.
  • Place the carcasses in the pit, filling it up nearly to the ground level. Refill with excavated dirt. Mound the earth at least 60 cm (2 ft.) or more above the ground surface to minimize scavenger digging and to allow for settling.
  • When refilling the pit after the carcasses are added, avoid re-filling with snow.
  • For biosecurity purposes, dig the pit with an excavator and move the excavator off-site prior to bringing out the deadstock. Use the farm tractor loader to load the carcasses in the pit, to refill the top of the pit, and to mound the dirt. Otherwise, if the excavator is kept on site during burial, clean and decontaminate it following cold weather disinfection procedures such as those provided by Ontario Pork.
  • Monitor for evidence of scavenger access. Refill scavenger holes.

i) Emergency Authorizations for Deadstock Disposal:

If the options listed don't work for your operation and you need to try something else or seek an exemption from some part of the deadstock regulation, an Emergency Authorization for Deadstock Disposal can be issued. To apply for an Emergency Authorization, contact:

  • During normal business hours (8 am to 5 pm EST): Agricultural Information Contact Centre, at 1-877-424-1300.
  • During after-hours or non-business days: Spills Action Centre, at 1-800-268-6060.


There are several workable deadstock disposal options that can be put in place on the farm, even in cold weather. Check the OMAF website for guidance and direction. In addition, the Agricultural Information Contact Centre may be able to direct you to local OMAF technical staff to support you through emergency circumstances.

Contact: Agricultural Information Contact Centre,



For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 30 January 2014
Last Reviewed: 6 February 2014