Feedlot operators were on duty 24/7 last week, and they were doing everything in their power to keep cattle cool during the rapid onset of high temperatures and oppressive heat indexes. Their routine practices of providing shelter and shade were in many cases not enough, so many feedlots activated sprinkler systems to cool both the cattle and ground temperatures.

Reports of cattle loss in some Iowa feedlots, primarily in Southwest Iowa but also in East Central Iowa, have ranged from 40 to 80 head. However, a loss of up to 160 head in one feedlot has been reported.

"Even before losing cattle to the heat, cattle feeders were feeling the financial burden from depressed market prices," says Bruce Berven, executive vice president of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association (ICA). "Market ready cattle are only selling for around $1,000 per head, and unanticipated cattle losses such as those experienced last week add to an already tough year for the industry."

USDA has livestock indemnity program

The ICA has been in contact with the state veterinarian at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and members of Iowa's congressional delegation in an attempt to expedite finalization of regulations for the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) that is part of the 2008 Farm Bill. LIP is designed to compensate livestock producers who have experienced mortality losses due to adverse weather, including extreme heat.

LIP eligibility cannot be determined without the regulations in place. USDA Undersecretary James Miller says he expects the rule to be released sometime in July. USDA is providing guidance relative to documenting death losses in anticipation of applying for compensation under LIP.

Qualifying documentation could include renderer receipts, veterinary or insurance records and other similar documents. Death loss totals will be adjusted for expected levels of normal mortality. Cattle feeders are encouraged to record approximate weight of cattle lost; total inventory; management steps taken to reduce heat stress; and weather conditions, specifically temperature, humidity and wind speed.

"In an attempt to quantify the magnitude of the issue, we are asking cattle producers and feeders to contact the ICA office immediately at 515-296-2266 to report death losses or to provide other pertinent information," says Berven. "ICA will continue to investigate alternatives for our members and will provide updates on LIP as additional information becomes available."