Author Topic: How fast will a cow decompose?  (Read 2134 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

Offline 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.

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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?!

Offline 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?

Offline 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.
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Offline 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

Offline 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.

Offline 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.)

Online 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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Offline droid

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #25 on: May 30, 2019, 09:10:48 am »
Acid is good for bones, but for flesh you need a strong alkali.  8)
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Offline thomasr

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #26 on: May 30, 2019, 09:17:35 am »
Quick lime is extremely hazardous to use. It will preserve rather than decompose drying out a carcass until the lime is neutralised then leaving an unsitely mess Used I guess in war /disaster zones where a quick solution is needed to combat the spread epidemics

Offline kay

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #27 on: May 30, 2019, 09:32:06 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 :)

Alternatively, any old meat, wait till it's "fly blown" ie with eggs - saves a visit to the cow.

Decomposition will also be being implemented by bugs already in the stomach.

Quote
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.
according to a zoologist of my acquaintance you can't assume that decomposition time will be proportional to body mass because of the aforementioned gut flora - the cow will have more of them, and the carcass is likely to get to a higher temperature. With that in mind, I googled on how long does it take to take a human body to decompose and reached "Typically placed 6ft down, without a coffin, in ordinary soil, eight to twelve years to completely decompose into a skeleton." On the other hand "Maggots can consume up to 60 percent of a human body meat(skin) in under seven days"

Quote
but for flesh you need a strong alkali
- which contributes to why bodies are preserved in peat bogs - the acidity of the peat inhibits the action of the organisms which would otherwise cause the body to decay.

Offline scurve

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #28 on: May 30, 2019, 10:00:31 am »
I suggest a bath, acid and a hack saw

That's your answer to everything, Alex.

Offline Robert Scott

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #29 on: May 30, 2019, 11:33:48 am »
Hello John
Could composting be a solution?
https://tammi.tamu.edu/2017/07/20/composting-large-animal-carcasses/

and to keep Alex Ritchie happy it involves a hacksaw too!

Offline paul

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #30 on: May 30, 2019, 12:01:26 pm »
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.)

From Wikipedia article on Quick Lime / Calcium Oxide:

Quote
Disposal of Corpses: historically, it was believed that quicklime was efficacious in accelerating the decomposition of corpses. This was quite mistaken, and the application of quicklime can even promote preservation; although it can help eradicate the stench of decomposition, which may have led people to suppose it was the actual flesh which had been consumed
I'm not a complete idiot: some parts are missing!

Offline Cave_Troll

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #31 on: May 30, 2019, 03:35:07 pm »

Quote
but for flesh you need a strong alkali
- which contributes to why bodies are preserved in peat bogs - the acidity of the peat inhibits the action of the organisms which would otherwise cause the body to decay.
[/quote]
also lack of Oxygen and lack of free access to external munching animals and insects

Online 2xw

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #32 on: May 30, 2019, 04:22:41 pm »
I'd probably like to consider the safety and conservation aspects of chucking a cow corpse quantity of quicklime down....

Offline Andyj23UK

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #33 on: May 30, 2019, 04:31:09 pm »
haul it out ??

Offline thomasr

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #34 on: May 30, 2019, 07:21:26 pm »
Surely we must ask for the   opinion of CNCC, natural England ect. especially bearing in mind  the  recent controversy over tampering in caves

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #35 on: May 30, 2019, 08:49:41 pm »
Surely we must ask for the   opinion of CNCC, natural England ect. especially bearing in mind  the  recent controversy over tampering in caves

Thanks but worry not; those involved are switched on enough to make sure any intervention is done properly, if at all.

Offline thomasr

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #36 on: May 30, 2019, 08:58:46 pm »
Then I presume you have  the permission of the cows owner to deal with it as you are dealing with someone elses property on their land

Offline blackshiver

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #37 on: May 30, 2019, 09:03:06 pm »
Never mind that, get some pigs down there.

I have a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a Weasel.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #38 on: May 30, 2019, 09:49:20 pm »
Then I presume you have  the permission of the cows owner to deal with it as you are dealing with someone elses property on their land

As I tried to articulate above, if anything is done, it'll be done properly.

Really this topic was just started as a way of gathering a bit of information.

Offline Cave_Troll

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #39 on: May 31, 2019, 09:33:14 am »
"you see your honour, as i explained to the detective, i was just wondering how you'd dispose of a body"

Offline Alex

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #40 on: May 31, 2019, 12:05:55 pm »
I can't udder believe it how mooving this subject is. You would think something like this was black and white. :spank:
Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

Offline thomasr

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #41 on: May 31, 2019, 04:10:02 pm »
Your being a bit bullish  now pitlamp

Offline blackshiver

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #42 on: May 31, 2019, 05:31:54 pm »
I think he should Mooooove on now.
I have a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a Weasel.

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #43 on: May 31, 2019, 06:11:12 pm »
When digging at Weston Super Mare Edwardian rubbish tip with an excavator we came across a buried herd of cows. They looked to have been buried in lime or something but the hide had not decomposed at all. Perhaps being buried under sand inhibited decomposition. Anyway it sparked a full crisis anthrax scare but that did not turn out to be the case.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #44 on: May 31, 2019, 07:02:41 pm »
Your being a bit bullish  now pitlamp

 :lol:

Online SamT

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #45 on: May 31, 2019, 11:28:58 pm »
I herd about this thread in the pub and I dont wont no beef like.. but  I think you're  milking it somewhat.

Offline mole02

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #46 on: June 01, 2019, 09:22:24 am »
We had a number of cow bones/skulls etc in a pit years back.
Figured they may have been dumped in the f&m scare?
Took some time to clear them with all the spoil.
Later digging revealed large lumps of rock hard white fat!
The stench would make you vomit when broken, be warned!

Offline Andyj23UK

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #47 on: June 01, 2019, 04:48:26 pm »
attempting to interject someting usefull .

on the subject of maggots - i suspect that boxes of " ready for fishermenn " maggots bought from a shop will be ineffective - you need to get " fresh hatched " - a lot of fishing shops breed their own - or at least used to - or ask them for contacts for thier supplier

lastly - it occurs to me - that fly egg laying // magot development // activity = quite temperature specific - andvice from an expert might be inorder [ via a uni cave club ??? ] - and if you go with a " maggot based solution " - a test - under controled conditions mimicking the temp etc - and see if your magoots of choice will actually eat at the temp the cow is going to be at


Online maxf

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #48 on: June 01, 2019, 05:54:59 pm »
 How about some vultures ? Apparently without them the world would be a rotting mess according to a documentary I saw recently

Offline Fulk

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #49 on: June 01, 2019, 07:04:45 pm »
I've heard that in some parts of the world vultures are being killed off (by ‘Homo sapiens’ – wise man, huh) or dying out because of the activities of Homo sapiens, with disastrous consequences.

Offline Andyj23UK

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #50 on: June 01, 2019, 08:44:15 pm »
How about some vultures ? Apparently without them the world would be a rotting mess according to a documentary I saw recently

fuck to civlity and atempting " useful " posts - lets bring in the fooking hyenas - 5 of them will devor a cow in one meal - who cares that they has rabies and will kill 3 children 34 pets 176 farm animals and a baby


Offline mikem

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #51 on: June 02, 2019, 05:47:56 pm »
I'm assuming this is a vertical shaft, so the hyaenas could only get cavers after the carcass was finished!

Tony suggested selling the meat, but I'm pretty sure you can only give it away without proper records...

Offline Wet Spaniel

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Re: How fast will a cow decompose?
« Reply #52 on: June 09, 2019, 04:33:23 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.

I’ve used half a pint of maggots from a fishing shop to clean a red stags head, in a matter of weeks they did a cracking job on it leaving literally just the very clean skull.