A video showing a long line of dead black cattle on the side of a road has been widely shared on social media since the beginning of the week. It is accompanied by messages reporting the death of thousands of animals in southwestern Kansas, attributed to an intense heat wave.
The sequel arouses great dismay, but also skepticism: can a heat wave kill so many animals in so little time on a single farm? For many internet users, “must be something else”. Alternative theories range from water poisoning to using secret weapons – a trumpist blog discerning the hand here “from the illegitimate Biden regime” who would look “create national riots prior to midterm elections so that they can justify a declaration of martial law or other national emergency,” inside “destroying the food supply chain”.)
However, local breeders’ associations and regional authorities confirm that several thousand cows died this week in Kansas due to a major heat wave.
However, no official commentary provides any information to better understand the context in which the viral video was filmed. However, local channel KWCH12 specifies that it has received confirmation from a consultant working for farms in the region. “that the video was taken on a farm in the southwest”, and that he had witnessed similar scenes. It also confirms that “many confinements in the Ulysses area” record of heatwave-related deaths.
When questioned on June 17, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said CheckNews “is aware of at least 2,000 livestock deaths in the southwestern state, mostly over the weekend. This number is representative of facilities that have contacted our agency for assistance in disposing of carcasses.The ministry thus confirms that this crisis does not concern only one farm, contrary to what some netizens have suggested. One of the hypotheses, in relation to the images published, may be that the dead animals lined up on the side of the road are from several farms, not just one. However, the ministry was unable to provide us with further details on this point at the time of publication.
As KWCH12 notes, while the count of thousands of dead animals is impressive, it must be considered in light of the gigantic size of farms in the region, “certain feedlots with up to 120,000 head of cattle”.
“At this time, any figures reported would be speculative.”
Scarlett Hagins, vice president of the Kansas Stockmen’s Association (KLA), also blamed the heatwave deaths in a video posted to social media on Thursday: “We cannot confirm the extent of the losses and at this point any figures provided would be speculative. This is a very unfortunate event, which results from a significant change in climatic conditions in the region in a short period of time. Temperatures rose significantly, humidity was high, there was little to no wind. She explains that the cattle could not evacuate during the night, which was hot, the heat accumulated during the day. “It’s not normal for this area, which is normally ideal for raising these cattle.” Questioned by several national media, Hagins also confirmed that the city of Ulysses, in the southwest of the state, was affected by these deaths linked to the heat wave, namely linked to high temperatures that can reach 104°F. (40°C).
A University of Kansas veterinarian interviewed by the Associated Press on Thursday confirms that a “isolated weather event, in a specific area of southwestern Kansas”is in fact the cause of death. “Yes, temperatures have risen, but the most important reason why it was harmful [pour les animaux] is that we had a big spike in humidity, while the wind speed dropped substantially – which is rare in western Kansas. It was this sudden change that did not allow the cattle to acclimatize.” The conjunction of these three parameters is also invoked by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to explain the events.
According to the meteorological records of the city of Ulysses in recent days, on Saturday, June 11, temperatures fluctuated between 17°C in the early morning and 39°C in the hottest afternoon, with more than ten consecutive hours above 30 °C, and winds oscillating between 0 and 15 km/h (except for a brief peak above 20 km/h). At night, the air humidity was close to 100% (as the day before and the day before). On Sunday, the 12th, the extremes were between 21°C and 39°C, with eleven consecutive hours above 30°C, and winds similar to those of Saturday. On Monday, the 13th, temperatures rose from 25°C to 40°C, with seventeen consecutive hours above 30°C (from 7 am to midnight), and maximum winds of 35 km/h.
Jess Shearer, a veterinarian who works with local farms interviewed by KWCH12 on Friday, noted that “it is usually in the first weeks of June that we see these animals being affected by the heat”. She also assesses that high temperatures are not the only cause – higher temperatures are recorded during the summer – but also and mainly humidity, due to the rain that preceded the heat wave. And to explain that there was no need to theorize a “conspiracy” to explain this rare event. “When all these parameters come together, sometimes it happens”, she considered.
The Associated Press, like KWCH12, notes that many cattle “I still hadn’t lost my winter coat” during this heat wave. In the same vein, another parameter is certainly taken into account: the color of the animal’s coat. As confirmed, almost unsurprisingly, by several studies carried out over the last two decades, black-coated cattle are also the ones that accumulate the most heat in the body and suffer the most from the effects of the heat wave.
In her conversations with the media, the vice president of the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association clarified that heat-related deaths are often “rare in the industry because farmers are taking precautions, including providing extra drinking water, changing feeding times so animals don’t digest during the heat of the day, and using cooling systems.
In 2011, 4,000 cattle died after a heat wave in Iowa. According to a study published in 2014, the 2003 and 2006 heatwave episodes in France were accompanied by a significant increase in livestock mortality (about +24% and +12%, respectively).