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Kansas cattle loss provides opportunity to learn, not to blame

Jaclyn Wilson

Jaclyn Wilson

Well, the conspiracy theorist came out of the closest again. So much energy gets used trying to convince people that occasionally there is a sound, logical explanation for an event. It does not mean that there are aliens involved, the government is out to get you, or activists are plotting a deep revenge to wipe humankind off the planet.

On June 14 there was massive cattle losses announced in Kansas feed yards. Estimates are still coming in, but the early numbers were guessing around 10,000 head of fat cattle had perished due to an unusual heat event.

Temperature readings started to exceed 100 degrees June 11. On June 13 the high temperature was 104 with humidity and little or no wind to help. The tough part was the nighttime temps did not drop to a point where fat cattle were given the opportunity to cool off.

It takes around four to six hours for cattle to dissipate heat that is collected during the day. If cooling doesn’t happen at night, the heat will continue to add stress. It’s not uncommon to see heat stress, especially with cattle that are in the 1,250-pound and above weight class. With the temps, along with-it being June and some cattle not being fully shedded off and black hided, this was the perfect storm for disaster.

Feedlot owners follow weather forecasts just like farmers and ranchers, and extra precautions were occurring in lots. More bedding can be added, water tanks and ration adjustments occur, along with putting in shades or running water to cool pen beds. Just like in a blizzard, sometimes no matter how prepared you are, Mother Nature just hands a rotten situation out and you try to handle it that best you can.

To add fire to the entire situation, some climate change activist got ahold of a video of deads being lined up for either the rendering trucks or to be mass buried and then that’s where it got even uglier. If you are involved in ranching and don’t take the time to talk about or correct falsities about what we are doing on a daily basis, I highly encourage you to start making the time.

There were “pro-cattle” advocates making poor decision tweets. Those removed from agriculture were blaming everything but heat stress, and even those in agriculture got involved and added their two cents. A handful involved on social media were encouraging people to stop speculating and wait to see what the veterinarians said, but unfortunately the masses just kept pushing forward.

So, let’s stop for a minute and realize how damaging instances like this are for agriculture, especially those that use this line: “Well, we had cows when I was growing up in (insert state here) and we never had this problem. There’s no way it could be heat.” Unless you are a feedlot owner in the state where the event occurred, stay in your lane please.

I get asked time and time again if selling beef direct-to-consumer is worth it. I always respond “no,” in terms of the time involved and the extra work, but being able to share information with consumers is important. The greatest thing that having a direct-to-consumer business has done is made me a better producer.

What would happen if every producer out there took a little bit of time to actually learn about the other sectors of the industry? What would happen if a cow-calf guy retained ownership and then toured a packing plant? What would happen if the stocker that bought cattle from the sale barn talked to the cow-calf guy he bought the cattle from? What about if the packer toured the ranch, or the feedlot guy talked to the cow-calf guy?

The more I’ve learned about or become part of a different sector of the beef life cycle chain, the more I’ve realized that I really didn’t have clue. Ranching in the Sandhills of Nebraska is not the same as feeding a cattle in barns in Virginia. Yes, we can teach and educate those that aren’t in the industry-but let’s not forget to be learning more about everything we can be at the same time.

Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at jaclyn@flyingdiamondgenetics.com. This column represents the views of one person and are not necessarily the opinion of the Midwest Messenger.   

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Jaclyn Wilson raises Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. Send comments to her at jaclyn@flyingdiamondgenetics.com.

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