Author Topic: How fast will a cow decompose?  (Read 2291 times)

Offline Pitlamp

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How fast will a cow decompose?
« on: May 29, 2019, 03:57:57 pm »
A site we were intending to visit evidently had a cow fall down it a while back. Assuming it's at cave temperature (around 9 degrees C) what's the consensus on how long it'll take to decompose?

Is there anything which might be done to accelerate the decomposition? I've heard a useful method is to pour on a tub of maggots from a fishing tackle shop; has anyone tried this or is it just anecdotal?

Thanks, in anticipation of any information or suggestions.

Offline Fulk

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2019, 04:06:40 pm »
Petrol?? Eat it???   ;D

Online AR

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2019, 04:07:36 pm »
Maggot-bombing would be my suggestion to speed up skeletonisation.
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Offline langcliffe

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2019, 04:14:13 pm »
There's been a sheep festering away on the ledge in the Marble Steps entrance gully for at least a couple of years. I think that the head did a runner some time ago, but the torso was still there a couple of months back. So without some remedial action, I think that you'll have to live with the cow for some time. I agree that maggots are your friends.

Offline 2xw

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2019, 04:24:27 pm »
 A pertinent paper is Meyer et al 2013 Seasonal Variation of Carcass Decomposition and Gravesoil Chemistry in a Cold (Dfa) climate

In the winter months their cow carcasses entered the advanced decomposition state (skeletonization as soft tissue falls away) by 60 days.

Maggots might be good, and if you can pour some probiotic yoghurt into the mouth and anus that may speed things.

Offline andys

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2019, 05:18:34 pm »
Darnbrook?
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Offline Mike Hopley

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2019, 05:28:53 pm »
Maggots might be good, and if you can pour some probiotic yoghurt into the mouth and anus that may speed things.

That would be a fabulous statement to take out of context. Adventurous/criminal plans for a night out, perhaps?

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2019, 06:12:20 pm »
Thanks for the help so far. (I've PM'd you Andy).

I was wondering whether maggot bombing might result n the place becoming fly city. Or maybe that'd happen anyway, naturally?

Re your second suggestion fulk (  :o ) - bring a knife and fork and I'll happily watch . . .

 ;)

Offline psychocrawler

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2019, 06:51:13 pm »
I’d go with petrol. Generally a very impressive way to do it - stand well back or you lose your eyebrows. Very successful a quarter of a century ago following a raging  inferno in a shake hole on Wild Boar Fell.

Offline cfmwh

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2019, 07:20:27 pm »
If you're going to stick anything up it's arse, you might consider a shaped charge! Speed the process up a tad. A kind of forced heifervescence?!

Online mikem

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2019, 09:04:37 pm »
Flies will all head for daylight once food source is used up.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2019, 09:08:22 pm »
Fair comment Mike.

Not sure petrol is such a good idea in this situation psychocrawler, partly for environmental reasons and partly in case any cavers with particularly strong stomachs do go in and encounter CO or something as a result.

Anyone else have any ideas about how long the cow is likely to stay there till it decays naturally?

Online AR

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2019, 09:17:43 pm »
Another possibility would be quicklime but depending on how far down the ex-moo is, it could be difficult to get enough down there to make a difference. I still reckon maggots would be the best bet, once they've  eaten most of it you could grapple the bones out.
Dirty old mines need love too....

Online mikem

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #13 on: May 29, 2019, 09:29:11 pm »

Offline thomasr

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #14 on: May 29, 2019, 09:43:58 pm »
Maybe find another site, leave it to decompose naturally or pull it out alltogether And quicklime good grief :o

Online blackshiver

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #15 on: May 29, 2019, 11:51:11 pm »
The NYMCC had a bit of a sheep incident a few years back when a flock decided to follow their leader down a newly opened windypit. Well, it was mid winter and warm air was coming up the shaft....
They rescued about half of them that had survived - by bouncing off the corpses of their buddies - but left a lot of dead down there. The hole was covered with an iron plate and left for a couple of years when a pre-xmas piss up trip to the place became a “good idea”. I borrowed a gas mask from work and got togged up in biohazard gloves because I expected absolute carnage.
There was nothing left but bleached bones and lots of dry, empty maggot cases.
A tub of maggots might be a therefore be reasonable idea, but I would also expect nature to take its course if the deceased is close enough to the surface to allow flies to get at it.
I have a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a Weasel.

Offline RobinGriffiths

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #16 on: May 30, 2019, 01:13:36 am »
Didn't they use maggots during the Spanish Civil Wat to treat injuries where they ate the pusy bits and the wounds healed. Not even googling that.

Online mikem

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2019, 06:55:45 am »
You can still get them on the NHS:
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gangrene/treatment/

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2019, 07:37:09 am »
Lime is something else I've heard of being used - but I'd have thought the resulting high pH would have discouraged the very microbes and insects that are wanted to get rid of the thing, thus prolonging the problem. (This makes me wonder if lime merely reduces the stink rather than dealing with the problem directly.)

Offline SamT

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #19 on: May 30, 2019, 07:56:12 am »
ate the pusy

pnarrr..


Indeed, do not google if at work.  :lol:

Offline Tripod

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #20 on: May 30, 2019, 08:11:39 am »
Flies are very choosy as to what they will lay their eggs on, with some species preferring fresh meat and others that which has been left for a while. Temperature will influence incubation and maggot development. Maggots bought from fishing tackle shops will have reached the end of that stage of development, stopped feeding and have left their food source. If they are not at that stage they will be very near it. Further development - into pupa - is delayed by refrigeration. Maggot bombing might work - and please tell me if it does - but the result might be just a lot of sleepy maggots doing nothing on the site. If the carcass is near enough the surface and the temperature is right the flies will find it.
I have written this as a fisherman with some experience of maggots and of breeding them in small quantities in search of gaining an "edge" in competitions.   

Offline kay

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #21 on: May 30, 2019, 08:33:29 am »
Probably impractical, but what about catching some blowflies and dropping them in a net bag, so they could lay eggs but not simply head back to the surface?

This article is Texas but has useful comments on effect of water
https://weather.com/science/news/flesh-bone-what-role-weather-plays-body-decomposition-20131031

I did wonder about the conservation implications of introducing anything into the cave environment, but I guess once the cow is there, anything else seems a minor problem.

Offline andrewmc

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #22 on: May 30, 2019, 08:46:43 am »
Get a bucket full of cow, bring it to the surface, leave it there for a few days, throw the bucket of cow back on the rest of the cow. Maggots introduced :)

Online tony from suffolk

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #23 on: May 30, 2019, 08:48:28 am »
If the carcass has been down there for a month or less, consider cutting it up for some prime cuts of dry-aged meat, which can be sold in plastic trays wrapped in clingfilm. A useful source of funding for your caving club!

I confess this might not be entirely risk-free, and you'd need to find a good butcher prepared to experience the wonders of the underground world.
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Offline Alex

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #24 on: May 30, 2019, 09:05:10 am »
We have the same issue with big bloated sheep blocking the way on. We just decided we would come back in 6 months and see how it fairs. Now whether that will give you an idea on the cow time I don't know. I suggest a bath, acid and a hack saw ;)
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