A heat wave affecting the Midwest and East Coast has killed thousands of turkeys and chickens and has left farmers struggling to cool off their flocks in temperatures surpassing 100 degrees.

In Kansas, temperatures reached 110 degrees with a heat index of 118. One farm lost 4,300 turkeys that Holly Capron and her husband were raising for Butterball. She said that the farm had been running fans and fog nozzles in the poultry buildings, and a tractor pulling a spray wagon helped water down the birds. The farm’s crew worked around the clock for 26 hours to bury the birds, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

"It was literally overwhelming during the night," Capron said. "I honestly wanted to start crying. My husband was in shock."

A farm in North Carolina lost power for approximately 45 minutes, shutting down the farm’s cooling systems. As a result, about 50,000 broiler chickens owned by Pilgrim’s Pride died. Scott Prestige, co-owner of Prestige Farms, said that the cooling systems normally keep the temperature in the poultry house in the 80s when the external heat index surpasses 105 degrees.

"With the new ventilation systems in these houses, they can handle the heat pretty good," said Bob Ford, executive director of the North Carolina Poultry Federation. "Most everybody's converted their houses to that type of system, and you just have to keep your fingers crossed I guess."

Source: Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle