Thousands of cattle deaths in Kansas due to heat waves

Thousands of cattle deaths in Kansas due to heat waves. 

According to industry authorities, thousands of cattle in feedlots in southern Kansas have perished from heat stress in recent days, owing to high temperatures, high humidity, and little breeze.

The ultimate death toll is unknown, but at least 2,000 heat-related fatalities have been reported to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. 

It aids in the disposal of bodies as of Thursday. However, as other feedlots report losses due to this week’s heat wave, agency spokesman Matt Lara anticipates that figure to grow.

The cow fatalities have spawned unfounded rumors on social media and elsewhere that anything other than the weather is to blame. 

Still, Kansas agricultural authorities say there’s no evidence of anything else.

“This was a legitimate meteorological event,” said A.J. Tarpoff, a cattle veterinarian at Kansas State University. “It was limited to a particular location in southwestern Kansas.” 

“Yes, temperatures climbed, but the more crucial reason it was harmful was that we had a tremendous jump in humidity… while wind speeds fell significantly, which is unusual for western Kansas.”

Temperatures were in the 70s and 80s last week. Still, they reached more than 100 degrees on Saturday, according to Scarlett Hagins, a spokesperson for the Kansas Livestock Association.

“And the heat stress difficulties in the cattle were induced by that rapid shift that didn’t enable the animals to adapt,” she said.

The fatalities are a tremendous financial loss since the animals, weighing roughly 1,500 pounds on average, are worth around $2,000 per head, according to Hagins. 

She noted that some producers who have suffered a loss would be helped by federal catastrophe programs.

And the worst may be over. Nighttime temperatures have been lower, and the animals have been able to recuperate as long as there is a wind, according to Tarpoff.

Heat-related fatalities in the sector are uncommon, according to Hagins, since ranchers take steps including giving additional drinking water, changing feeding timings, so animals don’t digest during the day, and cooling them down with sprinkler systems.

“Heat stress is always a worry for cattle this time of year, so they have mitigation methods in place to be prepared for this,” she said.

When the summer hit, many cattle had not yet lost their winter coats.

“This is a once-in-a-ten-year or once-in-a-twenty-year occurrence. This is not a typical occurrence, “Brandon Depenbusch, owner of Innovative Livestock Services in Great Bend, Kansas, agreed. “It’s a rare occurrence, but it does happen.”

Even though his feedlot had “zero difficulties,” he remarked that his state region did not have the same mix of high temperatures, high humidity, low breezes, and no cloud cover as southern Kansas.

Cattle ranchers in other parts of the country haven’t been as heavily struck.

Despite a heat index of well over 100 degrees this week, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the Nebraska Cattlemen say they have received no reports of higher-than-normal livestock mortality in the state.

Since temperatures exceeded 90 degrees last Saturday, after increasing from the mid-70s on June 1, no cow fatalities have been recorded, according to Oklahoma City National Stockyards President Kelli Payne.

“We have water and sprinklers here to alleviate heat and the heat wave,” Payne said, “but we have no control over bothersome Mother Nature.”