Frank J. Buchman

Cowboy • Horseman • Writer

Cattle Deaths Increase From Texas Wildfires

Estimates from recent wildfires in the Texas Panhandle “show more than 7,000 head of cattle died.

The final number directly related to the fires could reach 10,000.

The true total may not be known for months, as ranchers consider euthanizing cattle with severe injuries such as burnt hooves and udders.

Ranchers are also being advised to watch for respiratory issues in their cattle.

“Their hooves are burned off, their utters are burnt beyond, they can’t nurse their babies,” Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller said.

“We’ll actually end up having to put a lot of cattle down just because they won’t be able to make it, even though they survived.”

The fires also broke out during calving season, a very vulnerable time on pastures.

“Unfortunately, many of the livestock that were killed are either cows with their calves, or pregnant cows,” said Arthur Uhl, president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.”

While there were numerous wildfires in the Texas Panhandle, the largest was the Smokehouse Creek Fire.

The blaze sparked February 26 in Hutchinson County near Stinnett, and quickly became the largest wildfire in state history and among the largest in U.S. history.

A cluster of wildfires in the region burned across several counties, killing at least two people, and destroying hundreds of homes.

The Texas A&M Forest Service said the Smokehouse Creek Fire burned more than 1.058 million acres in three weeks.

Smaller Windy Deuce, Wellhouse, Grape Vine Creek, and Mills Creek fires, all in the Texas Panhandle, burned a combined 179,000 acres.

State investigators concluded the Smokehouse Creek and Windy Deuce fires were ignited by power lines, according to the forest service.

Minnesota-based utility provider Xcel Energy said that its facilities appeared to have been involved in igniting the Smokehouse Creek fire. However, the company said it did not believe its facilities played a role in the Windy Deuce fire.

Cattle that have survived the blazes relatively unscathed are still suffering, as are their owners, as the fires took out essential resources.

Roughly 120 miles of powerlines were burned down in the fires, and seven grain and seed dealers were “completely wiped out.”

Even the burned grass poses a problem, as the cattle industry heavily relies on healthy pastures.

It will likely take at least two years for the grasses to return to where they were, and that, on top of everything else, means many ranchers will likely have to completely change their future plans, with some even getting rid of their surviving cattle.

Relief efforts in the region are ongoing. The U.S. Small Business Administration has set up disaster loan outreach centers for people affected by any of the wildfires that hit the Panhandle.

The Texas Agriculture Relief Fund, administered by the state office, also received more than $800,000 in donations for farmers and ranchers devastated by the fires.

Areas to donate livestock supply have been established throughout the Panhandle.”


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