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Cooking cows not always prudent
July 26, 2007 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Over 1100 cattle have died in South Dakota in the last few days due to high temperatures and humidity. This is certainly not the first or even the worst event of its kind. Some are saying they were caught off guard, but warning signs are common. For the most part, only confinement cattle are being affected despite extremely high temperatures all over cattle range lands in the US and Canada.
posted by limmer (17 comments total)

 
I fear to think of how bad those feed lots stink.

And those poor cows!

For those of you who don't know, feed lots are super nasty... imagine a 100 methane and shit producing cows packed into the area the size of a basketball court. The ground is muddy from crap and piss and there isn't a single area of clean or grassy ground for the cows to lay down (so they lay down anyway).

The smell can be over whelming. The run off from feedlots is also a horrible for the environment. It's getting to the point where DNA testing is being used down stream in rivers to determine what feed lots up stream are polluting.

The cows have to be fed a steady diet of antibiotics to stem off disease that would other wise run rampart through such tight confines of cattle. Humans consume those antibiotics, too, then, by association, along with a cocktail of hormones also given. Both of those end up in the run off, too.

The heat problem is compounded by the blackened soiled earth. Flies are also attracted to such an enviroment, cause the cows to bunch up even more, making the over heating problem even worse.

Cows need space, shade, water and grass. Feed lots have none of these things. It is mass production of beef via complete torture of cattle.

Beef obviously doesn't need to be produced this way.

Many rural areas are attempting to fight off feedlots via voting, but it isn't a pretty battle. 'Good old boys' often run the local zoning boards which fast track through feed lots with little to no public input.

Hmm, as you can see, this is subject near and dear to me. I'll quit now.
posted by killThisKid at 11:02 AM on July 26, 2007 [10 favorites]


Boiled Beef.
posted by william_boot at 11:09 AM on July 26, 2007


Beef must be produced as cheaply as possible so people can eat it every day.
posted by rhymer at 11:20 AM on July 26, 2007


I don't see a reason to doubt that they were caught off guard. Farmers know that heat is dangerous to cattle, and onset of heat stress doesn't take long, especially in a humid situation.
posted by zennie at 11:24 AM on July 26, 2007


So, there's free steaks available?

No, seriously. I can provide a good - if temporary - home for at least one dead cow.
posted by loquacious at 11:26 AM on July 26, 2007


Former Spink County, SD resident here.

I grew up in cattle country. I worked at a locker plant processing cattle when I was a kid (10-12 yrs. old).

I still live in South Dakota.

It is very hot and humid here, and there's no relief in sight. It's been a whacked out year, weather wise. First there's ice storms, then flooding, and now heat and drought. Tornados are still a concern too.

I'm not going to cry "global warming;" that might have some effect. But this is a big and wild place, with radical changes happening fairly quickly.

For example, there's this lake which grew by 400% in surface area in less than 5 years. Lakes in this area (only a 30 minute drive from the region of the cattle deaths) have increased in size by 22,000 acres since 1992 and taken over houses and farmland that, historically, were not threatened by flooding. [this is leading to court decisions regarding property rights of landowners versus the traditional maritime-derived water use rights]
posted by yesster at 11:41 AM on July 26, 2007


[hit POST too early]

. . . and in Sioux Falls area, cities are starting to sue each other over water rights.
posted by yesster at 11:43 AM on July 26, 2007


For those wondering about "confinement cattle", here's some info from the CDC on livestock confinement and related concerns.

Also, I found a story about a cattleman who decided on a purportedly environmentally-friendlier method of livestock confinement. Sounds somewhat more humane than the usual.
posted by batmonkey at 12:09 PM on July 26, 2007


Most are not covered for such a scenario, which means operators and cattle producers lost thousands of dollars this week.

Hah, that made my day. You deserve it, you fucking assholes.
posted by cmonkey at 12:39 PM on July 26, 2007


Caught off guard? I come from the midwest where the summers are always hot and humid. Every other year there were stories about this very thing. This has been happening for years, how could they be caught off guard? I imagin these huge businesses have just done a cost analysis and decided the risk is not so huge in the long run. Spend a huge amount of money now on improving the facility or loose a few cows every couple of years. Anyway, you get better subsidies if people can be convinced that the food supply is in danger.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 1:12 PM on July 26, 2007


batmonkey, that article was interesting, but I have mixed opinions about the project.

It seems good to protect the watershed from feedlot runoff, but now the poor cattle have to live inside a concrete bunker? Not that the regular feedlot lifestyle is particularly enriching either, but making the beeves live inside a building doesn't sound all that healthy. I suspect the cattle involved would be even less resilient than the ones that are dying in the heat wave.
posted by janell at 2:08 PM on July 26, 2007


Belle... In SD, like in a lot of states, around 85% of farms are owned by individual families (and most of the rest by family conglomerates). I'm not saying these operations are all innocent or anything, and the SD counties mentioned in the article are the relatively wealthier ones in terms of agriculture, but I don't see jumping to the conclusion that it's greedy, rich businessmen who got hit here.
posted by zennie at 2:37 PM on July 26, 2007


Ok greedy family farmers then. I'm sorry to sound harsh, but what are they doing? Are they so unfamiliar with the animals they are raising and the area of the world they live in? I'll say it again, this has happened over and over. I would have more sympathy if they learned from the past.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 3:21 PM on July 26, 2007


I've worked around cattle my entire life. These massive die-offs can only be attributed to negligence and an extremely flawed way of raising animals. This heat wave did not sneak up on us. Also, here are the signs of severe heat stress in cattle:

Producers need to watch the cattle as well as the environment and be familiar with the signs of heat stress. Signs of heat stress can include:

• Restlessness and crowding under shade or at water tanks.

• Open-mouthed breathing (panting), and increased salivating.

• Increased respiration rates (Moderate heat stress: 80 to 120 breaths per minute, Strong heat stress: 120 to 160 breaths per minute, Severe heat stress: over 160).

• Gasping and lethargic.

posted by limmer at 4:06 PM on July 26, 2007


Also, Belle, South Dakota is not the midwest. It's an arid, landlocked region that NORMALLY does not get this kind of humidity.

For another example, Regina, Saskatchewan's two hospitals have been mostly unable to perform surgeries this week because they weren't designed to cope with humidex in the 110 F range. This really is not the usual summer heat in these parts.
posted by evilcolonel at 4:35 PM on July 26, 2007


The estimated number of cattle dead is now at almost 3,000. That is an astounding 1.4% of all fed cattle in the state. The media is still calling this a sort of "fluke" or "perfect storm" of bad weather conditions. I say they are continuing to only look at the symptoms and not the disease.
posted by limmer at 10:46 AM on July 27, 2007


The media is still calling this a sort of "fluke" or "perfect storm" of bad weather conditions. I say they are continuing to only look at the symptoms and not the disease.

That's precisely the role of the media in this day and age. Why talk about the horrific feed lot conditions and the fact that, as Belle O'Cosity points out, cattle ranchers probably would rather face the risk of losses like this instead of the definite costs of improvement? A "perfect storm" is easy: you don't have to blame anyone, just look on forlorn.
posted by graymouser at 11:18 AM on July 27, 2007


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