Thousands of American cattle were buried, dumped in landfills after the heat wave.

So many cows died that facilities that normally turn carcasses into pet food and fertilizer products were overwhelmed.

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CHICAGO — Top U.S. cattle feed companies sent 1,000-pound carcasses to a Kansas landfill, where they were flattened by loaders and mixed with trash, killing thousands of cows from heat wave in June. After, documents seen by Reuters show.

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A feed company said other cattle were buried in unlined graves.

Nor is there any common method of disposing of dead bodies. But so many cows died in the unusual heat and humidity that facilities that normally turn carcasses into pet food and fertilizer products were overwhelmed, prompting the state government and cattle ranchers to take emergency measures. .

The mass die-off and subsequent struggle to deal with rotting carcasses prompted changes in the meat industry in Kansas, America’s third-largest cattle state.

Kansas is forecast to see more high temperatures this summer that could stress and potentially kill livestock, leading to extreme weather linked to climate change. Many problems will increase.

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Although state officials have authorized the companies to dispose of the bodies at the Seward County Landfill in Liberal, Kansas, they are now considering alternatives to reduce the risk of odor and other problems if more deaths occur. coins, said the director of the landfill.

The disposal methods and identity of the livestock disposal companies were not previously reported. They were contained in documents obtained from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and confirmed by some of the companies involved.

State records show that at least 2,117 cattle died during the weekend of June 11 in southwest Kansas after humidity levels rose, winds disappeared and temperatures topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38°C). gone. It was early in the year for such heat and before some cattle had completely shed their winter coats.

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Seward County Landfill Director Brooke Theiner estimated that the dump alone carried about 1,850 to 2,000 dead cattle.

Flat cattle, putrid smell

Landfill workers used loading equipment with steel wheels to flatten the cattle to about eight inches and mixed the carcasses with trash, a process that took about three weeks, Theiner said.

“They’ll flatten out when you run them, but they’re spongy,” Thener said. “You get a mass of them and you get on top of it, and it’s like running a piece of equipment over a bed of water. It moves.”

Kansas has temporarily suspended requirements that bodies be covered with at least six inches (15.24 cm) of dirt or trash each day because of unexpected deaths, Thaner said. He further said that there was a smell coming from the dead bodies.

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“Once you get into it, wow!” They said. “I have two operators with iron courage.”

Landfills are the last resort for corpses because of the smell, animals digging in the trash and difficulties in covering the carcasses quickly, Theiner said. Kansas officials are exploring whether more livestock can be composted at feedlots instead, he said.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment did not respond to questions.

Cactus Feeders, which says it handles 4% of U.S. fed cattle, sent the carcasses to the dump, as did Cobalt Cattle, Meade County Feeders and Ersk & Dole’s Sunbelt feedyard, department records show. shows from The companies, which fatten cows on grain before slaughter, had no comment.

Grant County feeders in Ulysses, Kansas, sent carcasses to landfills because rendering plants were full, said Tom McDonald, owner of Five Rivers Cattle Feeding — the world’s largest company that sells meat packer JBS SA. Counts in users.

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Cows that die from heat stress are not processed into meat for human consumption, but can usually be turned into animal feed, fertilizer and other products.

Going forward, Five Rivers will feed cattle less grain, a high-energy component, and more hay and silage when temperatures rise to minimize their internal heat, McDonald said. He said the company was not considering other measures, such as adding shade, because mass casualties were rare.

Cattle Empire, a feedyard in Setanta, Kansas that Tyson Foods supplies, puts the carcasses in a landfill and buries the carcasses in unlined pits with mineral lime for faster decomposition, says veterinarian Tera Bernardt. said

Hannah Connor, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said burying livestock in unlined pits is the most dangerous method because the waste can seep into groundwater.

Barnhardt said Kansas allows unlined burials near Cattle Empire because the groundwater is deep.

All told, at least 617 cattle were buried by Cattle Empire, Friona Industries, NextGen Cattle and Clark County Feeders, state documents show.

Barnhart said the hot, humid air made the animals feel like they were suffocating.

For the surviving cattle, some are eating abnormally which can reduce their ability to gain weight, veterinarians said.

“Cattle are still struggling somewhat,” Barnhart said. “We really compromised them.”

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