More than 2,000 cattle died after temperatures topped 38°C, humidity levels increased and wind levels dropped in southwestern Kansas during the weekend of June 11 and 12, according to state records obtained by the news outlet.
Carcasses were reportedly flattened by loader machines and mixed with waste, while others were buried in unlined graves. Hannah Connor, Senior Attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, told Reuters that burying cattle in unlined pits is extremely risky because waste can seep into groundwater. However, Kansas allows unlined burials in some areas because the groundwater is deep down.
The outlet discovered that, while these are atypical disposal methods, so many livestock died in the heatwave in June that the supply chain was overwhelmed with nowhere for the cattle to go. Cattle which die of heat stress are not processed into meat, but can usually be converted into animal feed, fertiliser and other products.
The unexpected deaths of the cattle resulted in Kansas temporarily suspending requirements for carcasses to be covered by at least six inches of dirt or waste each day.
Kansas is forecast to have more high temperatures and, as a result, state officials are exploring alternatives to decrease risks if more deaths occur, according to the Director of the Seward County Landfill in Liberal, Kansas. They are also exploring whether more cattle could be composted at feedlots.
The director explained to Reuters that workers at the landfill resorted to using loading equipment with steel wheels to flatten the cattle to around eight inches before mixing the carcasses with refuse over a period three weeks.
He said: “After you run them over they’ll go flat, but they’re gonna sponge back up. You get a mass of ’em and you get on it, and it’s like running a piece of equipment on top of a waterbed. It moves.”