Preparing for On-Farm Depopulation and Disposal

 Direction for depopulation and disposal will depend on the type and severity of the emergency. It is of critical importance that individuals involved in the depopulation be appropriately trained and be comfortable with performing the activities to which they are assigned to protect human health and safety including mental health.

Animal deaths resulting from a reportable animal disease must be reported to CFIA. CFIA will order destruction of live animals on disease-positive farms.


The preferred option for disposal of infected carcasses is on-site unless environmental factors dictates other choices. If movement of carcasses off-site for disposal is required, this will be carried out according to strict biosecurity controls. Producers are required to present a disposal plan to CFIA.  After review of the plan, CFIA will either approve or deny it. Producers are responsible to run their own disposal plan.  

Check your insurance coverage; contact your insurance company and your marketing board to see what coverage is available. Specifically ask if disposal costs are covered by the general policy or if there is a separate rider. Many policies will not insure properties with a mass burial on site.

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Additional Notes

In the event that flock depopulation or partial depopulation is necessary due to a reportable animal disease or large-scale supply chain interruption, monitor your industry website for guidance (FBCC, board website, etc.) and work with your feed mill, processor/grading station and/or hatchery. Under those exceptional circumstances, additional industry resources in terms of people and large-scale euthanasia options may be available. 


  • Situation is disease issue or market disruption;
  • Practicality – age, number and size of birds, barn design and ventilation system, equipment needed;
  • Technical skills and equipment required and availability of trained personnel (third party provider);
  • Diagnosis and biosecurity; 
  • Public perception (method of depopulation, view from public property, etc.);
  • Operator and observer impact;
  • Worker health and safety;
  • Time constraints –disease spread and/ or market disruption; and
  • Cost

Work with your veterinarian to develop a plan for depopulation as a result of each of the emergencies listed in this resourse. Planning requires use of methods listed in AVMA guidelines under preferred methods. Depopulation method must be appropriate for the species and age and be implemented according to professional standards. This involves consulting with your veterinarian during the depopulation planning process and implementation.

  • Plan with several alternatives – use stakeholders to help provide insight;
  • Consider man hours needed for set up and clean up after a depopulation event;
  • Even if you were able to use a method with a high success rate it is important to confirm death before disposal; and
  • Have a backup method if primary method was not effective for whole flock such as cervical dislocation or non-penetrating captive bolt.

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Check your insurance coverage with both your insurance company and with your marketing board to see what coverage is available. Specifically ask if disposal costs are covered by the general policy or if there is a separate rider. If you are considering a mass burial, again, check your coverage. Many policies will not insure properties with a mass burial on site

The Mass Carcass Disposal Considerations Chart provides a schematic of the various decision points to be considered when determining how to handle large numbers of livestock and poultry mortalities. The cause of the mass mortality will initially guide the disposal decisions. Animal deaths resulting from a foreign animal disease must be reported to CFIA. They will direct the disposal options. Complete the When disposing record mortalities, disposal method and disposal location.

Mass Poultry Carcass Disposal Considerations

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On-Farm Mass Depopulation Methods
Acceptability by Bird Conditions Comments
Gas Inhalation: Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Acceptable with Conditions:
All Birds

Requires specialized equipment (pressure-reducing regulator, CO2cylinder or tank) and a closed chamber to contain gas.

Gas must be supplied in a precisely regulated and purified form without contaminants or adulterants.

May cause brief periods of distress before birds become insensible.

Birds should be placed in the chamber in a single layer. (MAC Cart)

Use in a well-ventilated area for operator safety.

Operator needs gas safety training.
Non-Penetrating Captive Bolt Acceptable with Conditions:
All Birds

Correct placement of the device on the head is critical.

Humane restraint methods (e.g. two people, appropriate restraint device) may be necessary.
May be more appropriate for large birds.
Manual Cervical Dislocation Acceptable with Conditions:
All Birds

Crushing of the neck bones is unacceptable prior to loss of sensibility.

This method is restricted to smaller birds
(e.g. ≤ 3 kg), although this may vary depending on operator ability.

Other methods should be considered when large numbers are to be euthanized due to operator fatigue.

Performed correctly (training and technique to be validated by a veterinarian), cervical dislocation results in the luxation (dislocation) – never crushing – of the cervical vertebrae.
Alternative methods should be considered (e.g. non-penetrating captive bolt) as in some classes of poultry there is evidence that cervical dislocation may not cause rapid loss of sensibility.
The site of the dislocation should be as close to the head as possible.
Cervical dislocation is difficult to perform correctly in large birds, and therefore may not result in immediate loss of sensibility. It is recommended that larger birds be rendered insensible prior to applying cervical dislocation.

Manual Blunt Force Trauma Acceptable with Conditions: All Birds

Humane restraint methods (e.g. two people, appropriate restraint device) are necessary.

The impact must be of sufficient force and accurately placed in order to result in immediate insensibility and death in a single blow.


Due to the impact on operators and observers, other methods should be considered, especially when large numbers are to be euthanized.

Alternative methods should be considered:
(e.g. non-penetrating captive bolt) due to the potential for incorrect application.

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