From Colorado to Texas, millions of acres of rangeland have burned, devastating ranching families and rural communities and fires in several states are still burning. In the wake of this disaster, the agricultural industry has stepped up in many ways to assist those impacted by the flames.
If you would like to help those impacted by the Plains wildfires, here are four relief efforts going on right now:
1. Colorado Cattlemen's Association and the Northeast Colorado Cattlemen's Association relief fund
These two groups are focusing on the immediate need for hay, feed and fencing supplies; as well as individuals willing to provide trucking. Donations should be taken to CHS Grainland in Haxtun, Colo. A loader and scale are both available, if needed. Contact Rick Unrein at (970) 520-3565 for more information about dropping off donations. Donations can also be dropped off at Justin Price's farm (11222 CR 7 Sedgwick, CO). For more information about how to help, please contact: Kent Kokes (970) 580-8109; John Michal (970) 522-2330; Justin Price (970) 580-6315; or Dan Firme (970) 520-0949.
2. Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation (OCF) relief fund
A relief fund has been set up with the OCF, a charitable arm of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation. To donate, visit www.okcattlemen.org or send a check with Fire Relief in the memo to Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation, P.O. Box 82395, Oklahoma City, OK 73148.
“It saddens me to know that my fellow ranchers have experienced such devastating loss from the recent wildfires,” said Charlie Swanson, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association president. “Families have lost homes, livestock, equipment and hay. A fire relief fund has been set up through the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation, a charitable arm of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association. We will work with Extension offices in the affected counties to identify ranchers in need and distribute the funds. While recovering from this devastating natural disaster will take time, it didn’t take long for folks to rally efforts to help. The outpouring of hay, fencing supplies, support and donations is overwhelming. I’m proud to be part of this industry that helps each other out when times are tough.”
3. Upcoming bull sales raise funds
Springhill Herefords and Alcove Cattle Company, both of Blue Rapids, Kan., will contribute 5% of all bull sales from their On Target Bull sale March 18. Customers can match the 5% or donate more, if they so choose. The sale catalog can be viewed at www.springhillherefords.com/.
Hinkson Angus Ranch of Cottonwood Falls, Kan., will donate the proceeds from a 3-year-old commercial cow-calf pair to sell during their annual production sale March 21. The pair will sell as Lot 130. To view the sale catalog, visit www.hinksonangus.com.
McCabe Genetics of Elk City, Kan., will be donating 25% of the proceeds of two bulls selling in their annual bull and commercial female sale March 23. The bulls well sell as Lot 1 and Lot 192. Both bulls can be viewed on videos at www.mccabegenetics.com/.
For those who cannot attend these production sales, but would like to place a bid, call KLA's Stephen Russell at (785) 458-2650. There will be an opportunity to add on donation dollars after each sale.
Pratt Livestock also will be holding a benefit auction March 23.
4. Cargill donates $50,000 of fencing materials
With nearly 100,000 miles of fencing destroyed by wildfires in Kansas alone, Cargill’s Wichita-based branch is donating $50,000 in new fencing materials to ranchers in Western Kansas.
“We know there are a lot of cattle producers that lost herds, buildings, fences and grazing land, and it’s their hard work that helps us produce beef enjoyed by Americans and people around the world,” stated Casey Mabry, strategic supply manager in Cargill’s cattle procurement team. “When we contacted the Kansas Livestock Association, they told us what was needed more than anything is fencing materials to rebuild what was lost to fire. We knew time was of the essence and that we needed to help as much as we could, as quickly as possible.”
For ranchers who will be rebuilding their operations following these fires, it may be difficult to know where to go for help, or how to even ask for assistance. Here are three things to consider when accepting help and donations:
1. Consider hay quality when feeding donated bales
Keep in mind the quality o donated hay and try to offer the appropriate bales to meet the nutritional needs of specific classes of cattle, suggests Ted McCollum, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist.
“Young growing cattle, pregnant heifers approaching calving, first-calf heifers and cows nursing calves are among the classes with the highest nutrient demands,” he says. “These are followed by mature cows in late pregnancy and then by cows in early pregnancy, mature bulls and dry cows.”
While donations are generous, without knowing the origin of the hay, producers risk cows aborting their calves if feeding moldy or poor-quality hay. McCollum suggests a hay sample if at all possible to formulate the best nutrition program for the herd.
2. Contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) to report death loss
Let your local FSA office know how you were affected, recommends Mike Jeffcoat, AgriLife Extension agent in Gray County, Texas.
Also, learn about your state’s guidelines regarding burying or otherwise disposing of dead livestock. Jeffcoat says it’s important to have a third party witness the burial to help document the number of dead animals. In Texas, for example, if more than 10 head are buried in a single location, a record must be in the deed.
3. Consider these government programs for additional relief
Emergency Conservation Program, a cost-share program that will help restore fences and some structures that were burned. It may be several months before a rancher would see any money from it.
Livestock Indemnity Program, which basically pays for losses of livestock, will take time also. Ranchers are advised to keep good accurate records and have a third party witness any death loss.
Environmental Quality Incentive Program funds also could be used to rebuild some of the infrastructure once the perimeter fences are built and possibly for some grazing deferment.
If you have any additional fundraising efforts or tips for victims, please share them with us in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.