As many as 4,000 Iowa cattle have died in the recent heat wave, the Iowa Cattlemen's association reports. ICA conducted a poll of its members and came up with this estimate. Up to 3,000 of the deaths occurred in eastern Iowa, says ICA spokeswoman Dal Grooms. She says totals from northwest Iowa push the number of cattle deaths to nearly 4,000.
Iowa had heat indexes of 110 degrees or higher from July 18 to 20. The heat broke on July 21 and the state received rainfall in a number of areas. But the heat index climbed to over 100 degrees again the last few days of July and a heat advisory resumed in central and southern Iowa.
The stifling heat could affect the fertility of bulls and the ability of heifers to stay pregnant. "The heat really knocks down the fertility of bulls and with heifers and cows, it's the early time of pregnancy and there is a question of whether they will stay pregnant because of heat stress," Grooms says. "We won't know the answer to that until October," when the animals are checked by veterinarians.
Iowa, which had about 1.2 million cattle on July 1, 2011 is the fifth-largest cattle-producing state in the nation.
Producers are taking steps to cool off their cattle from extreme heat
Grooms says farmers are doing all they can to protect their animals but cattle are especially vulnerable as they don't sweat and rely only on respiration. "I've talked to producers who've been out there just constantly looking for things to do to protect those cattle," she adds. "When it gets to be hot and humid like this, it's very difficult to stop all losses." Some parts of the state have had six or seven consecutive days with temperatures in the mid to upper 90s and heat indexes as high as 110 degrees.
Farmers have set up mist systems, industrial size fans and additional shelter in an attempt to cool off their cattle. She says the problems could persist into the fall. This is breeding time for cattle and the heat causes lower fertility for bulls and difficulty in the early stages of pregnancy for cows and heifers.
"Just because it finally cools off, those stressors don't go away," Grooms notes. "So producers will be watching their animals for quite a few weeks yet to make sure they can get them back to health." The reason most of the cattle deaths were reported in eastern Iowa, is because that part of the state didn't receive as much rain as other parts of the state.
Report livestock death losses to FSA for possible indemnity payment
You need to document and report cattle death losses from the heat to your local USDA Farm Service Agency office. You may be eligible for payment through USDA's Livestock Indemnity Program or LIP.
LIP only provides 30 days to report a loss after it has occurred. "While there are exclusions in the program, it is critical that producers make a timely 'Notice of Loss' report so they can be included if they qualify," says Grooms. Once a report is made and livestock continue to succumb because of the same weather event, those numbers can be included for the event.
ICA recommends producers document their losses, as well as the measures they took to protect the cattle. "Rendering truck receipts, photos and third party verifications from veterinarians, extension personnel or insurance adjusters are important, as is noting the approximate weight of the cattle that died. Likewise, take photos of your sprinkler systems, pen set-up and shade," says Grooms.
USDA indemnity program can provide up to 75% of value of the animal
The 2008 farm bill included LIP, which provides benefits to producers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by adverse weather. Details are available from FSA, the USDA which administers the program. In most cases, the livestock indemnity program will provide coverage up to 75% of the value of the animal.
For the LIP payment, producers must file an "Application for Payment" with FSA. LIP is scheduled to close on October 1, and continued funding for it is unsure. "We encourage cattle producers to make that 'Application for Payment' as soon as they think their herd is fully recovered from the effects of this heat," she says. That is the time to also bring documentation in to the FSA office. The indemnity program may not cover everything you incur with such a loss, but it does keep this situation from becoming a financial disaster.