Troubleshooting Guide for Carcass Composting

The information below was adapted with permission from the Government of Saskatchewan.

Troubleshooting Guide


Possible Cause


Pile fails to heat

Material is too dry Add moisture
Material is too wet Add dry material
Not enough N Add high N amendment
Poor structure (slumping) Add bulking agent
Cold weather, small piles Enlarge or combine piles

Temperature falls consistently and gradually over several days although material is not fully decomposed

Low oxygen, need aeration Turn or aerate pile
Low moisture Add water

Uneven temperatures in pile

Poorly mixed materials Turn or re-mix pile
Uneven airflow Re-mix pile
Materials at different stages of maturity None required - do not mix materials at different stages of composting

Compost contains clumps of materials and large particles, texture is not uniform

Poor mixing of materials Improve initial mixing
Uneven airflow Screen or shred compost
Raw materials contain large particles, non-degradable, or slowly degrading materials Screen compost, grind or sort raw materials
Active composting not complete Lengthen composting time
Pile overheating (temperature greater than 150ºF) Insufficient aeration for heat removal Turn pile to increase aeration
Moderate to low moisture Add water and mix
Pile is too large Decrease pile size to less than 8 feet
Spontaneous combustion Decrease pile size, maintain proper moisture, combine with other piles

Ammonia odour coming from composting pile

High nitrogen levels Add high carbon material
High pH Lower pH with acidic ingredients
Slowly available carbon source Use another carbon source amendment or increase carbon proportion
High temperatures or odours in curing or storage of pile Compost is not stable Manage pile for temperature and odour control, turn piles as necessary, limit pile size
Piles are too large Decrease pile size
Rotten egg or putrid odours coming from composting pile Materials too wet Add dry amendment
Poor structure Re-mix pile and add bulking agent if necessary
Pile compacted Turn pile to fluff
Pile too large Decrease pile size
Airflow uneven or short Re-mix pile, change recipe
Material is damp, has no unwanted odour, but fails to heat up Lack of nitrogen Mix high nitrogen materials like fresh manure or urea fertilizer
Compost is finished Transfer to curing area
Insect/flies or scavengers Unattended piles Maintain active turning and composting - heat and moisture discourage pests
Uncovered raw material Ensure there is adequate cover. Can cover with finished compost.