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Picking up the pieces: How ranchers can deal with the emotional after-effects of natural disasters

The weather is a significant factor for those who make their living from the land. And when the weather turns violent, it can leave emotional scars every bit as deep as the damage it does to livestock, barns, houses and working facilities. In the second of a three-part series, the Beef Roundtable looks at how ranchers can help each other and themselves deal with the emotional after-effects of nature’s violent side.

This edition of the Beef Roundtable looks back again at the devastating wildfires that consumed well over a million acres of ranchland in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.

But unlike our April edition, which looked at the effect of the wildfires on the land and cattle, the second part of our three-part series on natural disasters delves into a topic that many cattle producers might find difficult to discuss, but is essential to address in the aftermath of a disaster like wildfires, blizzards, tornadoes or similar events.

And that’s the effect those disasters have on the emotional and mental health of those who are affected. And those effects can be serious. Guests for this edition of the Beef Roundtable are Dr. Curt Drennen, community outreach branch supervisor within the Operations Section of the Colorado Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response. He’s joined by David Clawson, a rancher near Englewood, Kan., president of the Kansas Livestock Association, and one of the ranchers affected by this spring’s wildfires.

Drennen, a licensed psychologist, has been working in the area of behavioral health disaster planning and response since 2002. He has 23 years of experience in the fields of mental health and psychology, particularly in the areas of crisis intervention and behavioral health disaster management, and shares his wealth of knowledge on how to recognize and help those who are struggling with the aftermath of a natural disaster.  

Clawson is a fourth-generation rancher and farmer with ownership interests in various family partnerships. David and his brother were not only personally affected by the March wildfires, but he has visited with many of the burned-out ranchers to help them recover both physically and emotionally from the disaster. In addition, David has done numerous media interviews on how the fires have affected not just him personally, but how others are dealing with the event and its aftermath.

The Beef Roundtable is a joint project with BEEF and Purdue University. It’s a monthly video podcast that features some of the top leaders in the beef industry co-hosted by Ron Lemenager, Extension beef specialist at Purdue University and BEEF Senior Editor Burt Rutherford.

In addition to being available on, the sessions can be viewed at, on the Beef Roundtable YouTube channel and iTunes

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