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Kansas cattle deaths had multiple factors but likely won't impact the cattle market

Thousands of feedlot cattle in Kansas died from a combination of factors revolving around excessive heat, but it likely won't have much impact on the cattle market.

Cattle eat out of a bunk in a feedlot.
Most of the cattle who died of heat stroke in Kansas in June were feedlot cattle.
Erin Ehnle Brown / Grand Vale Creative LLC
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TOPEKA, Kan. — Thousands of feedlot cattle in Kansas died from a combination of factors revolving around excessive heat, but it likely won't have much impact on the cattle market.

Kansas experienced record heat in June. A.J. Tarpoff, a Kansas State University Extension beef veterinarian and assistant professor, said while the extreme temperatures were the driving force behind the cattle deaths, there were other factors at play as well.

“There are multiple factors that affect cattle with heat strokes, and yes, temperature and humidity are a piece of that, but wind speed and solar radiation are key players on the impacts on those animals,” he said.

The cattle comfort index for that period of time in southwest Kansas was upwards of 126 degrees. He says anything over 105 degrees is dangerous of cattle health and well-being.

“We had multiple hours of cattle comfort index of extremely high values due to the sudden spike in temperature,” Tarpoff said.

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Tarpoff also said that some of the cattle could have had underlying health conditions, and some of the cattle that were brought to Kansas from cooler climates had yet to lose their winter coat, thus expediting the cattle overheating.

While it isn't known exactly how many cattle died, Tarpoff believes that doesn't make it any easier for ranchers, as they are excellent in the area of animal husbandry and care deeply for their livestock's well-being.

“In the long run, any loss is difficult, especially for our feedlot operators and employees, that day in and day out working diligently to maintain the health and well being of those cows,” he said.

Tim Petry, North Dakota State University Extension marketing economist, said that while the loss of cattle in Kansas has to be hard on ranchers, it will make little to no impact on the current cattle market.

“For those feedlots where that happened, it's devastating. You could equate that to the calf losses with the blizzard in North Dakota, which lost several thousand calves there and for those producers, devastating. But, we have over 35 million calf crop in the U.S., so from the big standpoint it won't have very much effect on prices,” he said. “From a supply standpoint, we are in excellent shape, and get COVID behind us and hopefully we can get the Ukrainian war situation straightened out here in the next few months or whatever, and I think there will be positive times ahead.”

Kansas cattle ranchers that lost some of their herd due to the excessive heat can qualify for financial compensation from the USDA’s Livestock Indemnity program.

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