High heat paired with high body fat contributed to the die-off of an estimated 2000 cows.
2022 has been an extremely difficult year for Americans who make their living thought livestock.
Now it is being reported that thousands of cattle died in Kansas in recent days due to sweltering heat and humidity.
Estimates vary on the total number dead, as ranchers aren’t required to report deaths, the state Department of Agriculture told McClatchy News.
The deaths are centered in southwest Kansas where “several weather factors…led to heat stress for cattle,” a department spokesperson said.
Temperatures were in the 80s and low 90s until a sudden spike to 100 degrees on June 11, followed by two more days of triple-digit heat, according to the Weather Channel.
At least 2,000 animals were lost, Reuters reported. That figure is based on the number of carcasses state officials were asked to help dispose of.
Kansas is the third largest US cattle state behind Texas and Nebraska. An usual weather pattern in southwest Kansas led to conditions where the temperatures did not cool off at night. The effect may have played a role int the cattle die-off.
Heat stress doesn’t happen all at one time. Cattle accumulate heat during the day, and then over the nighttime hours, it takes four to six hours for them to dissipate that heat’, said veterinarian AJ Tarpoff, who works with Kansas State University Extension.
‘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.’
The cows could not acclimate to the sudden change, said Scarlett Hagins, spokesperson for the Kansas Livestock Association.
The state advised ranchers to provide cattle with extra water and check their health.
Parts of western Kansas and the Texas are expected to reach 110 degrees over the coming weekend, though stronger winds and lower humidity levels should help minimize cattle deaths.
Another factor in the deaths been that there cattle were designated market-ready cattle for the most part, and about ready to head to the processor. Their weight made them more susceptible to heat stress.
At that stage, feed yards manage those cattle differently, especially in the summer months.
“We limit cattle to one heat-generating event a day to minimize those extremes,” [veterinarian Miles] Theurer says. For example, they won’t move cattle from pens twice in one day, or they will manage the feeding times so that digestion doesn’t generate additional heat at the wrong time of the day.
“Feed yards also were providing additional water tanks and bedding to mitigate some of that solar radiation (in the pens) to lower the heat for those cattle,” Theurer says.
It’s a little like if you were an overweight person and you jogged a 5K in 105 degree heat. You would drink more water to cool your body temperature, and you wouldn’t necessarily run another 5K that same day to let your body recover.
As for large shades that are used in some areas of eastern Kansas to cool cattle in feed yards, Theurer cautions that using those in western Kansas may actually wind up causing more trouble. This was an extraordinary event—typically there is more wind and lower humidity for cattle. Adding shades can actually cause crowding in a pen, generating more heat among those cattle, defeating the purpose.
Here’s hoping there aren’t any more meat supply disasters as we head into the summer months. Otherwise, barbeques will not be the same.DONATE
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