Weather Forecast


Livestock losses to hot weather are significant across Minn.

WILLMAR -- Livestock losses due to the recent heat wave across Minnesota and the country are significant, according to Farm Service Agency personnel and livestock industry representatives.

In Kandiyohi County, Farm Service Agency officials and livestock producers are still assessing how many animals were lost, but County Executive Director Wes Nelson termed the losses to turkey producers as "pretty significant" with thousands of birds lost.

Nelson also reported scattered reports of cattle and hogs lost to the heat.

It was the combination of no wind and high heat and humidity later on Monday evening into Tuesday morning that was too much for the turkeys, he said. Many of the dead birds were close to or at market weight.

While turkey barns have fans and ventilation systems to move air, it was likely the humidity that played a factor in the heat deaths.

"People aren't used to the humidity, neither are the birds," Nelson said.

Producers who have lost livestock are asked to go to their county Farm Service Agency offices to file for the Livestock Indemnity Program, which reimburses producers for losses beyond normal mortality levels because of adverse weather. Nelson said that producers need to provide documentation to verify how many animals were lost and the size of the animals. He suggested rendering receipts, inventory sheets or photos as acceptable documentation.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., urged producers to go to the Farm Service Agency office and check to see if they qualify for the indemnity program. The news release from Franken noted thousands of head of livestock lost in the heat.

"The unusually devastating heat in Minnesota this month has been extremely hard on livestock and resulted in thousands of animals dying," Franken said in the release. "I have received reports that certain areas of the state have suffered substantial losses. Producers should talk to their local FSA offices to see if they qualify for help under (the Livestock Indemnity Program), but they need to act within 30 days to be eligible."

In South Dakota, State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven reported that at least 1,500 head of cattle had died across the state in the heat, according to information from the Mitchell Daily Republic newspaper.

According to information posted by WNAX in Yankton, S.D., University of Minnesota Extension Feedlot Educator Grant Crawford estimated about 1,000 head of cattle statewide have died from the heat. He says most of the losses have been in south central and southwestern Minnesota.

The Minnesota Turkey Growers Association began surveying growers earlier this week to determine how many birds had been lost in the heat, according to Steve Olson, executive director.

While some growers reported no lost birds or minimal losses, one grower reported 45,000 birds lost, with others reporting 10,000 or 11,000 birds lost. The birds were typically market-ready birds, Olson said.

While producers will be helped by the indemnity program, which uses market value to set the price paid per animal, the independent growers will not be able to cover the total financial loss, he said. There are limits on how much can be paid to a business entity and limits based on adjusted gross income. The producers also do not maintain insurance on the birds.

The turkey growers aren't the only loser when large numbers of birds are lost, there is also an impact on the processor, who has to fill the time when those birds were to be processed.

This is the third time already this summer when producers have lost birds, with two prior hot spells in June and earlier in July. This time produced the largest bird losses, Olson said.

"It was a combination of factors that hit and caused major problems," he said.

Farm workers at Gorans Bros. of Willmar kept the sprinklers on their birds in efforts to keep the birds wet, and therefore cooler and moving around, according to Kim Gorans.

The local farm lost some birds, more than the usual loss, but not significant numbers, Gorans said. The hot, still air was challenging.

"When there's no air movement, it's tough," he said.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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