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Valley farmer says no conspiracy played a role in mass cattle deaths in Kansas

Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 6:06 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Thousands of cattle died in extreme heat and high humidity in southwest Kansas last weekend.

Usually, cattle can withstand high temperatures, but now farmers are reporting several thousand are dead. It rained just days before the mass casualties, making the pens muddy and the air especially humid. On top of that, there was little to no breeze, and the temperature spiked over 100 degrees.

Photos and videos of the thousands of dead cattle gained traction online, and some believe there’s a bigger story.

“We’ve seen the stories that have circulated especially on social media with some videos and pictures from that area. They’ve taken what’s a very tough situation for those farmers and really tried to turn it into something it’s not and turn it into a conspiracy theory,” said Augusta County Farm Bureau Federation President Bradley Dunsmore.

He said the situation in Kansas, while tragic, isn’t impossible.

“We’re not just talking cows like we might see here in the Shenandoah Valley. Western Kansas is a feedlot area, where calves are sent for finishing and harvesting. Those are the cattle we’re talking about, cattle that are in the feedlot. A lot of these cattle were either market-ready or nearly market-ready. Those cattle do not handle stress or heat or adverse situation,” he said.

Dunsmore addressed misinformation online, saying passing along misinformation makes farmers have to defend the industry.

“I’ve seen people talking about ‘well, there’s a lot of cattle in Texas, and it’s hotter down there than in Kansas.’ Sure it is. It absolutely is. It is the combination of heat, no wind, and humidity. When those three things are coupled together, which they were in Kansas last week, it turns into a very, very deadly situation.”

For farmers affected by the deaths, it will be serious financially. However, people in the Valley likely won’t see any change from our regular meat supply. Reports of dead cattle range from 2,000 to more than 10,000, but that’s only a small number of the cattle harvested in one day.

“We typically harvest 650,000 head of cattle in one week in the United States. That’s approximately 110,000 a day, six days a week. If we lost 10,000 heads, that’s less than 10% of the harvest for one day,” said Dunsmore.

Extreme heat is expected to continue in Kansas, but the humidity is forecasted to be lower, and winds will pick up.

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