At least 2,100 cattle have died from heat stress in Southwest Kansas this summer, leading cattle providers to either bury the corpses or flatten them in landfills, according to Reuters.
At least four major cattle providers, Cattle Empire, Friona Industries, NextGen Cattle and Clark County Feeders, have buried cattle in unlined graves on their property, collectively burying over 600 cattle, according to state documents reviewed by Reuters. Landfill workers used loading equipment with steel wheels to flatten an estimated 2,000 cattle carcasses to eight inches, and mixed the bodies into the Seward County Landfill, located in Liberal, Kansas, according to Reuters.
Normally, the cows would be processed into pet food or fertilizer, but processing plants were overwhelmed this summer by the large number of deaths, according to Reuters.
The region continues to be dangerous for cattle, with the Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasting “emergency” levels of heat stress in south Kansas, Tuesday, with “danger” or “alert” levels for the following week.
Unlined graves are considered very risky, as biological waste could contaminate groundwater, according to Hannah Connor, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, speaking to Reuters.
Kansas approves the use of unlined graves in places where groundwater is sufficiently deep, according to Reuters. Landfills are typically seen as a last resort by health officials for disposing of cattle carcasses due to the intense smell and the impact on local wildlife, according to Reuters.
KLA Vice President of Communications Scarlett Hagins addresses cattle loss situation in southwestern Kansas
Here is what we know:https://t.co/TgXyKuPEJh
— KansasLivestockAssn. (@newsfromkla) June 16, 2022
State officials initially approved the use of the Seward County Landfill; however, the landfill’s director Brock Theiner told Reuters that they are seeking alternatives. Theiner claims the process to flatten cattle took approximately three weeks, according to Reuters.
“After you run them over they’ll go flat, but they’re gonna sponge back up,” Theiner told Reuters. “You get a mass of ’em and you get on it, and it’s like running a piece of equipment on top of a water bed. It moves.”
The cattle industry represents 55% of Kansas’ agricultural revenue, according to Forbes.
Neither the Kansas Department of Health and Environment nor the USDA immediately responded to requests for comment.
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