Heat wave kills ‘thousands’ of cows in Kansas

·2-min read
Heat wave kills ‘thousands’ of cows in Kansas

Extreme heat and humidity have left thousands of cattle dead in Kansas after a heat wave swept through much of the country this week.

By Tuesday, the state’s Department of Health and Environment had tallied over 2,000 dead animals from cattle operations who asked for help cleaning up the remains, Reuters reports.

A sudden uptick in heat and humidity early in the week left the animals unable to adjust, resulting in heat stress, a spokesperson for the Kansas Livestock Association, a trade association, told the publication.

AJ Tarpoff, a veterinarian at Kansas State University, told Reuters it was “essentially a perfect storm.”

Video footage going around the internet claimed to show cattle who had been killed by heat, but The Independent could not confirm that this footage showed the event this week in Kansas:

Temperatures rocketed to record highs in parts of the country this week as a heat wave swept from the desert in Arizona and California up to the Great Lakes region. In northwest Kansas, daily temperatures were broken as temperatures reached up to 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42C), according to the National Weather Service.

Kansas has the third-most cattle of any state in the country, with 6.5 million individuals, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

A lot of the conversation around cows and the climate crisis has focused on how cattle are contributing to global change — through their manure and digestive system, livestock (mostly cows) emit 32 per cent of human-caused methane emissions, according to the UN Environment Programme.

Methane, though relatively short-lived, is a powerful greenhouse gas that helps warm the planet.

But cattle themselves can also be impacted by the climate crisis. By the end of the century, heat stress spurred by planetary warming could lead to billions of US dollars in losses in the global milk and meat industries, according to a study published this year.

The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a global climate science authority, found that the climate crisis could be detrimental to animal and livestock health and productivity around the world.

Currently, around 42 per cent of all cattle in the US are in areas with at least moderate drought conditions, according to USDA. Many of those are in the western half of the country, where a decades-long “megadrought” has depleted water resources for twenty years and counting.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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