Cyndi's Two Cents
Unsubstantiated conspiracy or Mother Nature?
In mid-June, a tragic and unforeseeable heat index crisis hit a part of Southwest Kansas, causing several hundred feeder cattle just days from harvest, to succumb to heat stress. The Kansas Livestock Association told one of the reporters that works for me at Brownfield Ag News that temperatures unexpectedly reached record highs from June 10 through the 12th. The temperature jumped from about 90 degrees to 108 degrees. Those elevated temperatures did not fluctuate over those 3 days, with the nighttime temperatures holding in the 70’s, so the cattle did not get a chance to cool down. The humidity increased and there was little to no wind.
Scarlett Hagins with the Kansas Livestock Association told us, “Normally that region is very ideal for fed cattle because they are low in humidity, and they typically have plenty of wind and that’s a great place to raise cattle. But when you have a weather situation like this, it just didn’t allow the cattle to acclimate because things changed so quickly.”
I do not know the exact number of fat cattle that died over that June weekend in Kansas. The number of dead cattle is not the point of this column. Posts on social media were claiming anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 head. All unsubstantiated. The irresponsible spreading of misinformation and conspiracy theories is the point of this column.
I know very few people who raise livestock or work in animal agriculture who would intentionally cause harm to any animal in their care, let alone hundreds of animals in their care. I know there are some bad actors in the livestock business, just like there are a few bad doctors, mechanics, preachers, and third grade teachers.
Because most people are mostly good, I was taken aback by the outcry of so many, calling the death of these cattle “a conspiracy” by the government, seeking greater control over our country’s food system and supply chain. There were claims of contaminated feed. There were claims that the major packers were involved, trying to drive up the price consumers pay for beef. There were claims of foreign operatives causing the deaths of these feedlot cattle.
Do the math. If those feedlot cattle weighed fourteen hundred pounds and would have dressed somewhere close to 62%, we are looking at 840-pound carcasses. If that beef was priced at $2.75 per pound, that would be a total of $2,300 per head. $2,300 per head times 2, 5, 10 or 100,000 – take your pick from the rumor factory that is social media. Who would do that and why?
If this tragedy was caused by some evil faction, I think those who worked so diligently to save as many head as possible would have smelled a rat. The veterinarians, pen riders, cowboys and other feed yard workers would have known there was some sort of evil human intervention at play in those pens of fat cattle.
I do believe the government has too much control and is way more involved in my business than it should be. I believe there are foreign operatives looking for ways to harm Americans. I believe four major packers controlling more than 80% of the beef supply in this country is a bad thing. But not every bad thing that happens – especially when Mother Nature is involved – is a conspiracy created by the government, foreign operatives, the packers, or anyone else.
Mother Nature is more powerful than any of them, or all of them put together.