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The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said at least 2,000 head of cattle succumbed to high heat and humidity as of Tuesday, spokesperson Matthew Lara said. The calculation is based on the number of carcasses the agency has been asked to help dispose of.
“It was essentially a perfect storm,” A.J. Tarpoff, beef extension veterinarian for Kansas State University, told Reuters.
Thousands of cattle suddenly died last weekend in Kansas. The reason given – high temperatures. pic.twitter.com/Gd0I5k5eRP
— James Melville (@JamesMelville) June 15, 2022
The farming journal AgWeb.com reported the number of dead cows could be as high as 10,000, and more have been reported dead in neighboring Nebraska.
“During these bouts of extreme heat, the cattle can’t dissipate the heat at night because there’s not night cooling and so this perfect storm hits,” Veterinarian Dr. Dan Thomson of Iowa State University told the site. “No different than a tornado hitting a cattle feeding facility or a derecho or whatever and we have these natural disasters.”
Livestock on ranches in the western part of the state, which has 2.4 million cattle, suffered heat stress over the weekend as temperatures rose and cooling winds abated, said Scarlett Hagins, spokesperson for the Kansas Livestock Association. Temperatures reached as high as 108 degrees by Monday, Drew Lerner, president of World Weather, told Reuters. Temperatures could go even higher in the coming days, although officials believe wind and lower humidity levels could offer relief to the herds.
“It’s going to be oppressively hot and stressful for the animals,” Lerner said.
Ranchers are giving more water to their herds and checking on them with greater regularity.
“There’s mitigation strategies that we place, whether its nutrition, strategies for increasing water tank space and decreasing movement of cattle, all these things we’re doing on a day to day basis,” Thomson said.
The cattle deaths come as the ranching industry battles droughts and soaring feed costs linked to a global grain squeeze. In addition, extreme drought has left western and central Kansas parched. Experts project the state’s wheat yield to drop by more than 100 million bushels from last year’s harvest, costing farmers more than $1 billion.
“That is driven primarily from severe drought, particularly in the southwest part of the state, and to a certain degree in the south-central part of the state,” Ernie Minton, dean of Kansas State University’s College of Agriculture, told the Topeka Capital-Journal.