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Will Mass Cattle Deaths In Kansas Lead to Food Shortages?

Last Updated: July 31, 2022

Historically, cattle could withstand the increasingly frequent heat waves since the 60s, but not anymore.

On June 9th, 2022 temperatures in Haskell County, Kansas reached scorching temperatures of 101.1 degrees, followed by three more days of triple-digit temperatures maxing out at 104 degrees.

Reports of dead cattle range from 2,000 to over 10,000 dead cows just above the U.S sunbelt region.

Kansan farmers report dramatic increases in humidity from falling rains days before the heat wave and tragic deaths of thousands of animals.

As the summer sun heated the ground, more moisture rose into the sky, creating a dome of heat where inside, “like lambs to the slaughter,” at least two generations of cows just weren’t ready for the heat.

What is a Heat Dome?


“High atmospheric pressure from a ‘heat dome’ has been causing rising temperatures to stick around, while preventing storms from bringing cooling rain.

Weather patterns slow down when there’s high pressure, so the heat dome is ‘kind of like a roadblock’, forcing storms to go around it.”

AccuWeather, Senior Meteorologist Tyler Roys

Heat Waves Are Increasing in Frequency and Duration

Heatwaves in the US have steadily gone up by frequency, duration, and intensity in four decades since the 1960s. The annual number of heatwaves rose from two in the 60s to six in the 2010s. There are more days every year for heatwave seasons, accumulating more than ever in the past. A heatwave in the 1960s would last about 20 days, whereas, by the 2010s, it is an average of 70 days.

How Many Cows Are in Kansas?

Kansas produced approximately 385,000 head of cattle in 2021. With each cow valued at approximately $2,000 worth of beef, every death impacted farmers and their operations. However, since so many cattle are produced in the U.S., the relative impact on the overall U.S. beef industry is low.

“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.”

Augusta County Farm Bureau Federation President Bradley Dunsmore

How the Kansan Cows Died

Nearly the entire western half of Kansas is currently classified as abnormally dry or in a drought (U.S. Drought Monitor).

Matt Lara of The Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirms at least 2,000 cattle deaths in southwest Kansas, but as cattle ranchers aren’t legally required to report the number of cattle deaths, numbers remain ambiguous.

On social media fueling the “fire”, Frank Tufano, an aspiring Youtuber, claims the footage shown above of dead cattle is in Kansas, lining the fields of farmers throughout the region.

“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…”

…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 situations [well].

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.”

Augusta County Farm Bureau Federation President Bradley Dunsmore

Since the average lifespan of a dairy cow is 2.5 years to 4 years (Cambridge, 2020) and your average meat cow lives one to three years before transitioning to butchering, we can safely assume that this generation of cows has never before experienced this particular mixture of heat, a lack of wind, and moisture that turns a specific area into a natural heat dome.

“This is a one in 10-year, 20-year type event. This is not a normal event. It is extremely abnormal, but it does happen.”

Brandon Depenbusch, Innovative Livestock Services Feedlot, Great Bend, Kansas

Historically, heat waves in the past tend to reach their maximum temperature starting from the first week of July.

The most recent heat wave is too early.

In early to mid-June, the heat makes it especially difficult for unaccustomed cattle to survive. Cattle in the feeding lot, fat cattle, those who haven’t fully shed their winter coats, and those suffering from respiratory illness were especially susceptible to increased temperatures of the heat wave.

“What is clear is that the livestock (and human, for that matter) heat stress issue will become increasingly challenging for livestock farmers to deal with, as the world warms.”

Climate Researcher Philip Thornton
NYC History of Heat Waves

How Does This Impact the Prepper Community?

“It’s not unexpected to see fires in these kinds of structures. Fires are not a rare occurrence. We had 490,000 structure fires in 2020 in the United States.

We see a lot of fires every year.”

Director of the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) Research Division Birgitte Messerschmidt

Simultaneously and conversely, authorities confirm that disruptions will be limited in regard to national and international food supply chains. Experts agree that food prices will still rise in line with inflation.

However, even a small drop in food production could cause severe issues with the food supply chain.

Remember how toilet paper became so scarce and how earlier this year, baby formula flew off the shelves after the closure of Abbott’s specialty baby formula manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan.

The facts and outcomes remain clear: people buy up what they think won’t be around anymore.

The European Environment Agency (EAA) estimates that heatwaves in 32 European countries between 1980 and 2000 cost 27 to 70 billion euros with heatwaves and drought classified as major threats to agriculture, and thus food security. When we go back to the about us section of APS, the prepared family person understands that decreasing the impact of these types of instances means improving your day-to-day options while the world catches fire.

Benefits of Long-Term Storage

The benefits of long-term storage move beyond the end-of-the-world-prep category to practical times where you can eat whatever you want, knowing it hasn’t been impacted by the news, AND, your careful preparation enables you and your loved ones to be comfortable and secure.

  • The food you bought, was the price it was at the time of purchase. If it goes up, and your food is JUST AS GOOD as when you bought it, that food was cheaper for you.
  • The preparation, the setting up of your food storage area, and rotation of your food stock innately teach you how to organize your preparation plans.
  • You’ll end up saving hundreds of dollars a year by storing, cooking, and consuming your goods.

How to Freeze Dry Your Food

How to Be Prepared for a Heat Wave

It is important to prepare well ahead of a heatwave, especially if you are more at risk or sensitive to the effects of heat, or if you are caring for someone who is more at risk.

Heatwave Preparation Checklist

  1. Help | Who to call if you need help
  2. Doctor’s Orders | Get your doctor’s advice on any heat-related medical conditions and how much water you should be drinking.
  3. Kits | Where to find your emergency kit in case of a power failure or fire.
  4. The Weather Forecast | Keep an eye on the weather forecast and links.
  5. Understand Your Health Conditions | Your health can be affected during a heatwave, especially if you have a medical condition or are more at risk to the effects of heat.
  6. Hot Medicine | Many prescribed medications can make the risk of heat-related illness worse. Medications can become less effective or toxic when overheated.
  7. Storing Medicine in Heat Waves | Most medications need to be stored at a temperature below 25 degrees Celsius. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure about the correct storage temperatures.

How to Prepare Your Home for a Heat Wave

  • Check fridges, freezers, fans, and air-conditioners work properly
  • Stock up on food for your household and pets, and medicines to last up to a week so you don’t have to go out in a heatwave
  • Ensure you have enough drinking water
  • Keep cool packs in the fridge or freezer to help you cool down
  • Fill spray bottles with cool water to spray on your face and body
  • Put together a small emergency kit in case of a power failure
  • Check your home can be ventilated with cross breezes without compromising security
  • Install, update or adapt curtains or blinds
  • Choose curtains with pale linings in rooms that get a lot of sun to help reflect the heat
  • Avoid dark reflective curtain linings and metal Venetian blinds as they absorb heat and may make rooms hotter
  • Shade your windows in the heat of the day especially windows that face west
  • Consider external awnings or blinds, shutters, shade cloth, or other material to prevent the sun from shining on the window
  • Insulate your house to help it keep cool in summer and warm in winter
  • Be prepared for potential bush or wild fires.
  • Keep track of the weather.

Resources and Links

EPA, Climate Change Indicators: Heat Waves

“Always Be Ready” Max

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