Politics Heat stress has caused thousands of livestock deaths in...

Heat stress has caused thousands of livestock deaths in Kansas


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Belle Plane, Con. (AP) – Tens of thousands of cattle in feedlots in southwest Kansas have died of heat stress in recent days due to rising temperatures, high humidity and low winds, industry officials said.

The final toll remains unclear, but as of Thursday at least 2,000 heat-related deaths have been reported to the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment Agency, which assists in disposing of the bodies. Agency spokeswoman Matt Laura said she hopes the number will increase as more feedlots report losses from the heat wave this week.

Livestock deaths have led to unsubstantiated reports on social media and elsewhere that something is playing along with the weather, but Kansas farm officials say there are no indications of any other cause.

“It’s a real weather event – it’s isolated to a specific area in southwest Kansas,” said AJ Torpoff, a veterinarian at Kansas State University. “Yes, temperatures have risen, but the main reason it’s harmful is that we have a huge increase in humidity … and at the same time wind speeds have actually dropped significantly, which is very rare in western Kansas.”


Last week, temperatures were in the 70s and 80s, but on Saturday they rose more than 100 degrees, said Scarlett Huggins, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Livestock Association.


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  • “And the abrupt change that did not allow the cattle to get used to it caused heat stress problems in them,” she says.

    The deaths represent a huge financial loss because animals typically weighing 500 1,500 are worth $ 2,000 per head, Huggins said. She said federal disaster programs can help some producers who have suffered losses.

    And the worst can end. Overnight temperatures are cool and – as long as the wind – the animals can recover, Torpoff said.

    Heat-related deaths are rare in the industry because livestock breeders take precautions such as providing extra drinking water and changing feeding schedules, so that animals cannot digest the heat during the day and use sprinkler systems to cool them.

    “Heat stress has always been a concern for cattle this year and they have mitigation protocols to be prepared for this kind of thing,” she said.

    Most of the cattle still did not give up their winter coats when the heat hit.

    “It’s one of the last 10 years, a 20 year event. This is not a common occurrence, “said Brandon Debenbush, feedlot operator at Innovative Livestock Services in Great Bend, Kansas.” It’s very unusual, but it happens. “

    Although his feedlot had “zero problems”, he noted that his part of the state did not have the same combination of high temperatures, high humidity, low winds and clouds that hit southwest Kansas.

    Elsewhere cattle breeders did not have much trouble.

    The Nebraska Department of Agriculture and Nebraska livestock breeders said they have not received any reports of more cattle deaths than normal in the state, despite temperatures hovering above 100 degrees this week.


    Kelly Payne, president of the Oklahoma City National Stock Yards, said no cattle deaths have been reported since temperatures rose to 90 degrees last Saturday from the mid – 70s beginning June 1st.

    “We have water and sprinklers to reduce heat and heat waves,” Payne said, but “we have no control over that awkward nature mother.”

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