Fact check: Cattle in Kansas were killed by high temperatures, humidity

·3 min read

The claim: Heat did not cause Kansas cattle deaths

After a heat wave in Kansas killed at least 2,000 cattle in June, some social media users suggested that the deaths might be tied to billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

"I'm a Texas cattle rancher and the heat story is total bull----. It's another lie," reads a screenshot of a deleted tweet posted on Facebook on June 17.

The post's caption says, "Don’t forget Gates is pushing for synthetic meat."

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The Facebook post generated more than 100 interactions in less than a week. Similar posts have generated thousands of interactions on Facebook and Twitter.

But the claim and related implication about Gates are both false.

The cattle died because they could not adapt to the unusually high temperatures and humidity, according to a spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. There is no evidence their deaths have anything to do with Gates, a frequent target of conspiracy theorists.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.

Cattle died in Kansas from the high temperatures, humidity

USA TODAY, like other independent fact-checking organizations, found no link between Gates and the cattle deaths in southwestern Kansas.

The cattle losses occurred primarily on June 11 and June 12 after temperature and humidity spiked that weekend, according to Philip Harris, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

This event was unusual because the "weather change was quick and drastic and the cattle did not have time to acclimate," Scarlett Hagins, a spokesperson for the Kansas Livestock Association, told USA TODAY in an emailed statement. It was not normal for the area, which typically experiences low humidity and plenty of wind, she said.

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Maximum temperatures in southwest Kansas were in the 99- to 103-degree range on June 11 and June 12, with humidity as high as 96%, according to Christopher Redmond, a weather data library manager at Kansas State University.

"If cattle are unable to cool down overnight due to temperatures remaining high, they cannot compensate for this type of weather, which was the case here and led to heat stress issues for cattle in the region," Hagins said.

Heat stress occurs when "cows have more heat than they can get rid of," which can also lead to "more stress, lower milk production and a higher rate of diseases," according to the University of Minnesota.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that the cattle deaths in Kansas were not caused by heat. The cattle died after suffering heat stress from high temperatures and humidity.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Cattle in Kansas killed by high temperatures, humidity