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At least 2,000 cattle dead in Kansas heat, adding pain to beleaguered industry

Kansas is the third largest U.S. cattle state behind Texas and Nebraska, with more than 2.4 million cattle in feedlots.
Image: Cattle in Kansas
Nate Nelson helps move cattle toward holding pens during a roundup on July 17, 2014, southwest of Emporia, Kan.Kansas City Star / Tribune News Service via Getty Images file

At least 2,000 Kansas cattle have died in recent days amid soaring temperatures and high humidity, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Kansas is the third largest U.S. cattle state behind Texas and Nebraska, with more than 2.4 million cattle in feedlots.

The deaths add pain to the U.S. cattle industry as producers have reduced herds due to drought and grappled with feed costs that climbed as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine tightened global grain supplies. Ukraine is one of the leading exporters of corn in the world.

Matthew Lara, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the cattle deaths were tallied based on the number of carcasses the agency was called to dispose of, Reuters reported.

Cattle began suffering heat stress as temperatures and humidity spiked over the weekend in western Kansas and cooling winds disappeared, said Scarlett Hagins, spokesperson for the Kansas Livestock Association.

Meanwhile, eight northwest Kansas counties were placed under extreme drought warnings earlier this month.

Temperatures reached 108 degrees in northwest Kansas by Monday, said Drew Lerner, president of World Weather Inc. This weekend, parts of western Kansas and the Texas panhandle will near 110 degrees, though stronger winds and lower humidity levels will help minimize cattle deaths, he said.

Experts say ranchers need to check on their cattle more often in such oppressive temperatures and provide them with plenty of water.

Elsewhere in the U.S., at least two deaths in the Milwaukee area are being investigated as heat related, officials said.

The deaths of a 39-year-old Milwaukee woman found in her home Tuesday and an 89-year-old Greenfield man who collapsed in his backyard Wednesday were called “probable” heat deaths by the medical examiner's office, but autopsies are pending.

About 64 million people remain under heat alerts Thursday across several pockets of the country, including the Desert Southwest, the Ohio Valley, the Southeast and the Central Plains.