Heat stress blamed for thousands of cattle deaths in Kansas

Jun 16, 2022, 2:08 PM | Updated: 2:54 pm

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — Thousands of cattle in feedlots in southwestern Kansas have died of heat stress due to soaring temperatures, high humidity and little wind in recent days, industry officials said.

The final toll remains unclear, but as of Thursday at least 2,000 heat-related deaths had been reported to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the state agency that assists in disposing of carcasses. Agency spokesman Matt Lara said he expects that number to rise as more feedlots report losses from this week’s heat wave.

The cattle deaths have sparked unsubstantiated reports on social media and elsewhere that something besides the weather is at play, but Kansas agriculture officials said there’s no indication of any other cause.

“This was a true weather event — it was isolated to a specific region in southwestern Kansas,” said A.J. Tarpoff, a cattle veterinarian with Kansas State University. “Yes, temperatures rose, but the more important reason why it was injurious was that we had a huge spike in humidity … and at the same time wind speeds actually dropped substantially, which is rare for western Kansas.”

Last week, temperatures were in the 70s and 80s, but on Saturday they spiked higher than 100 degrees, said Scarlett Hagins, spokeswoman for the Kansas Livestock Association.

“And it was that sudden change that didn’t allow the cattle to acclimate that caused the heat stress issues in them,” she said.

The deaths represent a huge economic loss because the animals, which typically weigh around 1,500 pounds, are worth around $2,000 per head, Hagins said. Federal disaster programs will help some producers who incurred a loss, she added.

And the worst may be over. Nighttime temperatures have been cooler and — as long as there is a breeze — the animals are able to recover, Tarpoff said.

Hagins said heat-related deaths in the industry are rare because ranchers take precautions such as providing extra drinking water, altering feeding schedules so animals are not digesting during the heat of the day, and using sprinkler systems to cool them down.

“Heat stress is always a concern this time of year for cattle and so they have mitigation protocols put in place to be prepared for this kind of thing,” she said.

Many cattle had still not shed their winter coats when the heatwave struck.

“This is a one in 10-year, 20-year type event. This is not a normal event,” said Brandon Depenbusch, operator of the Innovative Livestock Services feedlot in Great Bend, Kansas. “It is extremely abnormal, but it does happen.”

While 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 no cloud cover that hit southwestern Kansas.

Elsewhere, cattle ranchers haven’t been so hard hit.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the Nebraska Cattlemen said they have received no reports of higher-than-normal cattle deaths in the state, despite a heat index of well over 100 degrees this week.

Oklahoma City National Stockyards President Kelli Payne said no cattle deaths have been reported since temperatures topped 90 degrees last Saturday, after rising from the mid 70s starting June 1.

“We have water and sprinklers here to help mitigate heat and the heat wave,” Payne said, but “we don’t have any control over that pesky Mother Nature.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
6 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
14 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
14 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
21 days ago
A young bison calf stands in a pond with its herd at Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. The cal...
Associated Press

US aims to restore bison herds to Native American lands after near extinction

U.S. officials will work to restore more large bison herds to Native American lands under a Friday order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
21 days ago
Children play in a dried riverbed in Flassans-sur-Issole, southern France, Wednesday, March 1, 2023...
Associated Press

Italy, France confront 2nd year of western Europe drought

ROME (AP) — Bracing for Italy’s second consecutive year of drought for the first time in decades, Premier Giorgia Meloni huddled with ministers Wednesday to start mapping out an action plan Wednesday, joining France and other nations in western Europe grappling with scant winter rain and snow. Meloni and her ministers decided to appoint an […]
23 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...
Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Heat stress blamed for thousands of cattle deaths in Kansas