According to state officials, extreme heat and humidity killed thousands of cattle in Kansas recently, and high temperatures will continue to threaten livestock this summer. Facilities contacted the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for help disposing the carcasses of over 2,000 cattle as of Tuesday, June 14, 2022.
After producers reduced herds due to droughts and struggled with food costs which climbed as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine tightened global grain supplies, this massive number of casualties added pain to an already strained cattle industry.
Kansas is the third largest U.S. cattle state (after Texas and Nebraska), with over 2.4 million cattle currently in feedlots. According to Scarlett Hagins, a spokesperson for the Kansas Livestock Association, as temperatures and humidity spiked over the weekend in western Kansas and cooling winds disappeared, cattle began suffering extreme heat stress and could not acclimate to the sudden change.
“It was essentially a perfect storm,” added AJ Tarpoff, a professor of Animal Science at Kansas State University. A relatively mild spring may have prevented the cattle from properly adapting to the massive heatwave that hit Kansas recently. “Some cattle may not have fully shed their winter coats by now, which would interfere with their ability to dissipate heat,” explained Professor Tarpoff.
By Monday, temperatures reached 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius) in northwest Kansas, and this weekend weather experts predict an increase to over 110 degrees. “It’s going to be oppressively hot and stressful for the animals,” said Drew Lerner, the president of World Weather Inc. However, stronger winds and lower humidity rates may help minimize cattle deaths.
In order to help them survive, ranchers are providing cattle with more water and checking their health regularly. “You can’t say, ‘Oh I checked them three days ago,’” said Brenda Masek, the president of the industry association Nebraska Cattlemen. “When it gets hot, you’ve got be to out every day and making sure that their water is maintained,” she concluded.