Livestock producers dealing with cattle deaths due to heat wave

Last week’s triple-digit heat wave was felt by everyone, but the worst of it was felt by area livestock farmers and producers who had to deal with substantial numbers of cattle dying due to the intense heat.

“It was just kind of the perfect storm,” said Terry Handke, co-owner of Handke Feed Yard north of Muscotah. “We had high temperatures, extremely high humidity and no wind.”

Handke said he wasn’t ready to publicly divulge how many cattle at the feed yard were casualties of last week’s heat wave, but reports from other area livestock farmers in the Jackson County area suggest that several hundred cattle died in the heat.

The Muscotah-area feed yard wasn’t the only area cattle operation that suffered losses from the heat wave.

“We’ve lost more than we wanted to,” said Scott Doyle, who raises purebred and crossbred Angus cattle northeast of Holton of last week’s heat. “It’s been a pretty good year up until now… This could wipe out a guy’s profit pretty fast.”

Doyle also used the term “perfect storm” to describe the mix of heat and humidity that contributed to the deaths of more than 1,000 cattle in eastern Kansas and southeastern Nebraska in recent days.

“It’s a natural disaster, and you’re kind of in survival mode,” he said.

The heat and humidity, combined with a lack of wind, drove heat indexes above 130 degrees in some parts of the area, making the past week intolerable for livestock farmers and the animals they care for. Meadowlark Extension District Agent Ross Mosteller, who specializes in livestock for the district, said the resulting cattle deaths have put area producers “on edge.”

“The emergency management director in Nemaha County told me he’s been criticized for soliciting death loss numbers and disposal reports to help with disaster declaration filing as part of his responsibilities,” Mosteller said.

But the worst aspect of losing cattle to a heat wave, Handke said, involved cattle that had reached premium weights of 1,100 to 1,300 pounds and were ready to go to market.

“Some of them had been sold, and they weren’t going to be delivered until this week or next week,” he said. “It was hard making those phone calls to talk to people and tell them what happened.”

For more on this and other stories, please log in to your account and select “Aug. 30, 2023” under “E-Editions.”

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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