Thousands of cattle dumped in Kansas landfill after dying from extreme heat
“If animals need to be disposed of, it needs to be done efficiently, and so any of the feed yards that were impacted by that immediately started thinking about what steps they needed to take to do that,” Scarlett Hagins with the Kansas Livestock Association said.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment handles the disposal of large quantities of animals. Sending them to a landfill or burying them is an option, but it is not the preferred choice.
“The first choice of any feed yard would be using a rendering service, so a company that comes up and picks up an animal that has died, and takes them away, and disposes of them,” Hagins said.
Hagins said since so many cattle died in the incident last month, rendering companies got overwhelmed quickly. She said feed yards are required to have pre-approved disposal plans in place.
“All things are considered with…relative to groundwater and different things like that,” she said. “All of those things are taken into consideration before a site is pre-approved.”
The Kansas Department of Agriculture told KAKE News that there are several options when it comes to disposing livestock. KAKE News also called the Seward County Landfill to learn more about the process, but we have yet to hear back.
“We knew that these options had to come into play, and we for sure worked alongside our members to make sure that they had all their options,” she said. “They knew what the protocols were.”
After a heatwave killed thousands of cows in southwest Kansas last month, top U.S. cattle feeding companies reportedly sent carcasses to the Seward County Landfill in Liberal.
That's according to a report from Reuters on Tuesday. One feeding company said other cattle were buried in unlined graves.
Reuters reported facilities that typically convert the carcasses to pet food and fertilizer were overwhelmed, which prompted the state and feeders to take emergency measures. Seward County Landfill Director Brock Theiner estimated that the dump alone took in roughly 1,850 to 2,000 dead cattle.
State records show at least 2,117 cattle died after the heat and humidity spiked in southwest Kansas the week of June 11. Some cattle had yet to fully shed their winter coats.
Landfill workers reportedly used loading equipment with steel wheels to flatten the cattle and mix the carcasses with garbage, which took nearly three weeks.
Theiner said Kansas temporarily suspended requirements that carcasses be covered by at least six inches of dirt or trash each day, adding that the bodies had a putrid smell up close, he added.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment had not responded to Reuters' questions at the time its report was published.