Currently, mortality compost is managed by temperature as extent of tissue degradation is difficult to assess. In the present study, field-scale mortality compost was constructed with composted brain tissue (Brain) and compost adjacent to brain tissue (CAB) sampled over 230 d. Following genomic DNA extraction, bovine-specific mitochondrial DNA (Mt-DNA) and bacterial 16S rDNA fragments were quantified using real-time PCR. Genomic DNA yield of Brain and CAB decreased rapidly (89-98%) and stabilized after 7 d. Compared to d 0, Brain Mt-DNA rapidly decreased (84-91% reduction on d 7). In CAB, Mt-DNA dramatically increased until d 28 (up to 34,500 times) thereafter decreasing by 77-93% on d 112. Quantification of bovine Mt-DNA indicates tissue degradation was initially characterized by rapid decomposition and release of cell contents into surrounding compost matrix followed by further degradation of Mt-DNA by flourishing microorganisms. Consequently, bovine Mt-DNA copies in compost matrix were reliable indicators of tissue degradation.
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