Heat-related cattle losses in Kansas reveals need to reform rules to make carcass removal easier
When several thousand cattle were lost to a heat crisis in southwestern Kansas in June, it revealed just how important it is to address rules that regulate rendering and carcass removal, a veterinarian close to the situation said.
Dr. Tera Barnhardt, a veterinary consultant for Cattle Empire, one of several companies that was hit by the widespread losses in June, spoke of her experiences with the situation during the August 31 webinar, “Communicating Through Disaster.” The webinar was hosted by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture.
“Carcass disposal is not a topic that’s easily covered anywhere,” Barnhardt said. “We struggle with that on good days, and we’re really going to struggle on a bad day.”
But she said it is a topic to which the industry should definitely pay more attention.
“Rendering is going to be a big topic for animal agriculture in the next decade. It’s got to be figured out, and it’s got to be a challenge that we overcome,” she said.
In the case of the massive losses in Kansas’ Haskell and Grant counties, those who had the cattle in their care had an overwhelming amount of carcasses to remove, and regulatory and financial limitations left them limited options. Landfills don’t accept carcasses for free, and the cost of burial isn’t cheap.
Plus, rendering provides an option to offer value to a carcass, rather than seeing it go to waste while underground.
“Carcass disposal in itself is an issue for animal agriculture. Whether we are burying, rendering, composting – whatever our option is. A lot of times when we get hit with percentages of cattle that overwhelm any of those systems, we have an emergency carcass disposal issue,” she said.
She said new regulatory issues need to be explored, because “the next time something like this happens, we have the right to look into a different carcass disposal method that’s safe for the environment that accomplishes what we need to accomplish.”
However, the best time to do such research is also the most inopportune time.
“The only time we can research that is when something really bad happens, and we usually don’t have time to employ those actions at that point,” Barnhardt said.