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Thousands of cattle deaths reported in Kansas due to heat wave

In southwestern Kansas, thousands of cattle have died of heat stress, amid a brutal heat wave.

There have been at least 2,000 heat-related deaths at feedlots in the last week, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said, and agency spokesman Matt Lara told The Associated Press he expects that number to go up even higher.

Some people have speculated on social media that the cattle didn't die just because of high temperatures and high humidity, but those rumors are false, A.J. Tarpoff, a cattle veterinarian at Kansas State University, told AP. "This was a true weather event," Tarpoff said. "It was isolated to a specific region in southwestern Kansas. Yes, temperatures rose, but the more important reason why it was injurious was that we had a huge spike in humidity ... and at the same time wind speeds actually dropped substantially, which is rare for western Kansas."

Temperatures shot up from the 70s and 80s to more than 100 degrees, and "it was that sudden change that didn't allow the cattle to acclimate that caused the heat stress issues in them," Scarlett Hagins, spokeswoman for the Kansas Livestock Association, said. The animals are worth about $2,000 each, and Hagins said federal disaster programs will help some of the cattle producers who lost livestock.

There are precautions that ranchers usually take to avoid cattle deaths due to high temperatures, including putting out extra drinking water and turning on sprinkler systems, but "we don't have any control over that pesky Mother Nature," Oklahoma City National Stockyards President Kelli Payne told AP.