Cattle Country Ravaged, Tens of Thousands Estimated Dead and Many More Will Soon Be Lost

Cattle Country Ravaged, Tens of Thousands Estimated Dead and Many More Will Soon Be Lost

Thousands of livestock have already been confirmed dead and thousands more will follow in the wake of the wildfires that have devastated the Texas panhandle this week.

The Texas Department Agriculture said in a news release Wednesday that 85 percent of the cattle in Texas were on ranches in the panhandle — millions of animals, it said, “with some towns comprising more cattle than people.”

Two human lives had already been confirmed lost in the fires, CBS News confirmed, but the ultimate toll on cattle from what has become the largest wildfire in the recorded history of Texas, the Smokehouse Creek Fire, will almost certainly range into the tens of thousands.

In addition to killing an unknown number of animals in the fires themselves, inventories of feed hay and grass have also been burned up.

“The fires have left little food or water for livestock,” The Texas Tribune reported Friday. “Some farmers lost everything. Property fences are gone. Hundreds of miles of power lines have burned, leaving no electricity to pump water from wells — which farmers rely on to hydrate their cattle. And it will take years for the land to recover and grow new vegetation for livestock in the area.

“Feed stores are already seeing many people in need of cattle food,” the outlet added.

Ranchers are searching hundreds of acres of “scorched earth” to locate and dispose of dead cattle, The Associated Press reported. Many others will have to be euthanized because of burns or other injuries too serious for them to survive.

“There’s no grass, there’s no water for the livestock,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller told CNN on Saturday. “We’ve lost over 3,000 head, which is a very small number, that will double or triple easily. We’ve got cattle that we’re going to have to euthanize because of the damage to their hooves, their udders.

“We’ll just have to put them down,” he said.

“Even if they survive it, more than likely they’re gonna get pneumonia, they’re gonna get sick, they’re gonna die,” cattle farmer Shane Pennington added, according to the outlet.

X-Cross-X Ranch operator Chance Bowers said that the loss of even a small portion of a rancher’s herd could mean financial ruin.

“These cows you see dead are worth between $2,500 and $3,000 apiece,” Bowers told the AP. “Financially, it’s a massive, massive burden on us.”

Bill Martin of the Lonestar Stockyards auction in Wildorado told the outlet that drought had already driven the number of cattle in the U.S. to numbers as low as they’ve been since 1950.

“There’s a big shortage of cattle, so this is going to impact that immensely,” Martin said.

“Some of them lost all their cattle,” Martin said of ranchers in the panhandle. “Most of them lost some of their cattle.”

As of Sunday afternoon, the Smokehouse Creek Fire had already burned over 1.1 million acres and was considered only 15 percent contained.

At least four other wildfires were burning in the area, according to CBS, who cited the Texas A&M Forest Service. The Smokehouse Creek Fire was the largest and least contained of the five.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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