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Supply points in the Texas Panhandle continue to receive and distribute supplies. The current challenges are determining how long to keep cattle off burned rangeland and replacing miles of fencing.

Ron Smith, Editor

March 29, 2024

2 Min Read
cattle, wildfires, burned rangeland
A month after the worst wildfire in Texas history burned more than 1 million acres in the Texas Panhandle, efforts are transitioning from “response to recovery.”Shelley E. Huguley

A month after the worst wildfire in Texas history burned more than 1 million acres in the Texas Panhandle, efforts are transitioning from “response to recovery.”

Monty Dozier, disaster assistance and recovery program director for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, says supply points continue to receive and distribute commodities. “Traffic in and out of the area is decreasing,” Dozier said. “But these folks still need a lot of support. So, we are now working on long-term plans to help producers as they move into late spring and early summer.

“Our livestock and rangeland specialists are offering educational programming, but Mother Nature needs to give us hand.”

He said the area needs rainfall as well as a warming trend. We need warm days, but even more important, we need warm nights. The grasses in the High Plains are warm season and need higher temperatures to recover.”

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He said a little rain helps some. “We've gotten a little bit of moisture up there. But having grown up in that area, I realize that annual rainfall is only about 17 inches.”

Big challenges

The big challenge, now, is determining how long to keep cattle off burned rangeland, he said. “That could be six months or two years.”

Dozier said replacing fencing across the 17,000 square miles of burned rangeland will be daunting. “Ranchers face a big challenge to get fencing material and the labor force to put fences back up. They have many miles of fencing to repair or replace. And that is an expensive proposition.”

Related:Wildfire aftermath: Producer, landowner resources

Dozier said estimates of property losses and cattle deaths remain uncertain. “We are getting closer to a more accurate estimate of cattle deaths and destroyed fences.”

Help still needed

He said ranchers still need help. Feed and fencing materials are top priorities. “Hay inventory is pretty good across the region. We make daily inventory checks, and many say they still have capacity to receive hay but are no longer in dire need.

“The main focus now is for protein and fencing material. Producers indicate they need protein tubs and mineral blocks. They lost a lot of mineral feeders in the fire.”

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Dozier said ranchers have either moved cattle to alternate grazing or are depending on supplemental feeding.

“I’ll know more next week about where cattle are. This will be a long-term recovery. It was the largest wildfire in Texas history.”

Hemphill County lost significant rangeland from the fire, and early estimates indicated cattle deaths into the thousands.

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith

Editor, Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 30 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Denton, Texas. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and two grandsons, Aaron and Hunter.

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