Posted 11 months ago
By John Axtell
The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality has granted SWANN…the Solid Waste Agency of Northwest Nebraska…a permit to operate an Emergency Carcass Disposal Area at its landfill north of Chadron for livestock killed by last weekend’s blizzard.
SWANN executive director Jack Nemeth says a trench has been dug near the landfill cell for mass burial of the thousands of cattle who died. At the end of each day, a new 4-foot layer of dirt will be placed into the trench.
Dead animals in Nebraska must be disposed by burning, processing by a rendering facility, or burial at least 4-feet deep. Nemeth says the trench was dug because trying to put that many carcasses into the landfill cell could damage it.
“You get them in a pile and they bloat and they explode, so we have to cover them every day, we’re required to put cover those. So what happens is that you have a big settling effect going down the road, and then your landfill gets a big crater in it which poses very nasty problems and you have to go in and dig it out.”
The carcass pit at the landfill 14 miles north of Chadron is limited to SWANN customers, with no out-of-state carcasses accepted, but the service is free.
Nemeth says each load must be weighed at a certified scale before being taken to the landfill, which does not have a scale. The scales at the SWANN transfer station in Chadron may be used, but a copy of a scale ticket from another site will work just as well.
An appointment must be made before coming out to the landfill since personnel will be busy with their regular duties, but Nemeth says that simply means calling first to the SWANN offices at 308-432-4245
The landfill and carcass trench are not scheduled to be open this weekend, but crews will be on hand if requests are made in advance. Nemeth says the whole process should run as smoothly as possible, under the conditions, if ranchers simply contact SWANN.
Since producers can bury cattle themselves on their own property, Nemeth says that may be cheaper alternative for many of them. He says they can also call SWANN and a staffer will make sure they understand the state’s burial regulations for animal carcasses.
Meanwhile, UNL Extension Dawes County Scott Cotton says efforts to compile livestock loss numbers are continuing and he hopes to have some firm figures to share over the weekend.
Cotton says many of the very early loss estimates given included cattle that were missing and may or may not have died. He thinks the numbers coming in now should be pretty accurate since producers have had several days to check all their fields and timbered areas.