Officials believe that extreme humidity killed thousands of cattle in Kansas earlier this week as a heat wave spreads across the United States. If heat was indeed the culprit, then other livestock could be in imminent danger around the country, too, CNBC reports.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment spokesperson Matthew Lara said that at least 2,000 cattle died as of Tuesday. The agency came up with that figure based on the number of carcasses that ranchers requested help hauling away.
Kansas is the country’s third largest cattle producing state, behind Texas and Nebraska, with about 2.4 million animals in feedlots. Kansas Livestock Association spokesperson Scarlett Hagins said that temperatures and humidity spiked over the weekend in the state. Cattle began suffering heat stress as a result; and because they could not acclimate quickly enough, many died.
“It was essentially a perfect storm,” said AJ Tarpoff, beef extension veterinarian for Kansas State University.
Temperatures reached 108 degrees in northwest Kansas by Monday, said Drew Lerner, president of World Weather Inc. Officials warn that temps will continue to rise this weekend up around 110 degrees, so ranchers need to prepare accordingly. Hopefully stronger winds and lower humidity levels will help outdoor animals acclimate to temps better.
“It’s going to be oppressively hot and stressful for the animals,” Lerner said.
Ranchers are providing extra water and increasing their routine checks as the heat spikes.
“You can’t say, ‘Oh I checked them three days ago,’” said Brenda Masek, 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.”
Cattle in Kansas aren’t the only ones facing dangerous heat
Summer has just begun stateside, but the rising temperatures are already taking a toll. In the snow-capped mountainous west, the sudden heat and humidity in areas like Montana and Wyoming caused early and aggressive snow melt. Pair that excess runoff with heavy rainfall and you have a recipe for natural disaster down in the valleys.
Typically mountains with snow heat up gradually as summer approaches. The snow and ice melt at a reasonable pace, and the surrounding ecosystem enjoys the moisture during drier summer months. But areas like Yellowstone National Park got so hot so quickly that the snow melted and begun rushing down into the valleys.
As a result, the park and its surrounding communities face a state of emergency. Flash flooding, rockslides, mudslides, and dangerous rain all caused park officials to close all inbound entrances for the first time since 1988.
“The million-dollar question is, ‘What’s the damage?’ And the answer is, we don’t know yet. We’re not putting teams in harm’s way at the moment. Teams from around the country will come in to help assess damage to various infrastructure in the park,” Yellowstone superintendent Cam Sholly said to reporters earlier this week.