Thousands of Cattle Dead in Kansas After Extreme Heat, Humidity

Thousands of Cattle Dead in Kansas After Extreme Heat, Humidity
Cattle crowd inside a Colorado feedlot on Aug. 22, 2012. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts

Thousands of cattle have died across Kansas in what officials have attributed to extreme heat and humidity amid soaring temperatures.

Exact figures pertaining to the number of cattle that have died are yet to be confirmed, although officials have said at least 2,000 have lost their lives as some areas reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit over the weekend.

Kansas is the third-largest cattle state in the U.S. behind Texas and Nebraska, with more than 2.4 million cattle in feedlots.

Spokesperson Matthew Lara for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed the deaths of 2,000 cattle to Reuters, stating that the number represents facilities across the state who have contacted the agency to ask for help in disposing of the bovine carcasses.

AJ Tarpoff, beef extension veterinarian for Kansas State University, said the combination of too much heat and lack of nighttime cooling creates what is “essentially a perfect storm,” that can lead to large cattle losses.

“Heat stress doesn’t happen all at one time,” Tarpoff told DTN/Progressive Farmer. “Cattle accumulate heat during the day, and then over the nighttime hours, it takes four to six hours for them to dissipate that heat. As long as we have a cooling effect at night, cattle can mostly handle the heat.”

“Where we run into issues is where we have two to four days in a row of minimal nighttime cooling, and we start the day with the heat load we accumulated the day before still there,” he said.

Elsewhere, Scarlett Hagins, a spokesperson for the Kansas Livestock Association, said cattle began to experience heat stress over the weekend as humidity levels shot up in western Kansas and cooling winds disappeared, leaving the animals unable to adapt to the sudden change.

The Kansas Livestock Association is currently offering a “Livestock Indemnity Program“ which offers payments to eligible livestock owners who have lost their cattle ”in excess of normal mortality” due to eligible loss conditions, including extreme heat.

Owners must file a notice of loss within 30 days of it becoming apparent and are advised to get documented confirmation from a veterinarian confirming that the case of death was excess heat, and not something else.

However, with temperatures still rising, the final death count is not yet clear and several reports have suggested the death toll could be much higher at 10,000.
One video posted online shows what appears to be hundreds of dead cattle lying upside down on the side of the road.

Experts told DTN/Progressive Farmer that the center point of the thousand of deaths was the city of Ulysses.

The deaths come at a time when producers in the U.S. cattle industry have already had to reduce herds amid drought conditions and increased feed costs driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which led to reduced supplies of grains across the globe.

Meanwhile, a number of fires have broken out at food production plants and agriculture facilities across the nation in recent months.

Brenda Masek, president of the industry association Nebraska Cattlemen, warned that further high temperatures this week could put animals at higher risk of heat-related deaths.

She urged ranchers to provide extra water to cattle and regularly check on their health.

“You can’t say, ‘Oh, I checked them three days ago,’” Masek told Reuters. “When it gets hot, you’ve got be to out every day and making sure that their water is maintained.”

Despite the recent deaths in Kansas, the state of Texas, which has the highest concentration of cattle and is also experiencing sizzling temperatures has yet to report mass cattle deaths.

Related Topics