Yesterday, as I walked through our home pens examining our cow/calf pairs and took notes about which cows need to be sold, I thought about how crushed I would be if we lost several cows. If I walked outside tomorrow morning and half of our herd had dropped dead, I would be flattened with grief. My husband and I have worked so hard to build our herd and this calf crop is proof that we might be doing something right (we think!). To lose the fruits of our labor overnight would not only be a financial disaster but would be heartbreaking. I know the personalities of our cows – which ones will be first at the bunk to eat, which ones are great protectors and which ones will let me give them a back rub. They aren’t pets and they aren’t part of my family but they are still very special to me.
Raising cattle is not for the easily broken or faint of heart. Several years’ worth of work can be decimated with weather catastrophes, a disease outbreak or a freak accident. Which is why you need to understand how much pain beef producers in Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas are feeling. If you haven’t seen it in the news, massive wildfires have burned nearly 800,000 acres of grasslands in those states, obliterating everything in their path. As a frame of reference, 800,000 acres is about 606,000 football fields. And not just pastures have been lost but homes, barns and cattle were annihilated – entire towns have been evacuated to escape danger. Generations of work is gone in just a few short days and all that remain are the ruins of fences, machinery and stone chimneys.
Fire is unforgiving. It eats and kills without hesitation and, when paired with 50 mph wind gusts, doesn’t leave much behind to be salvaged. Right now, ranchers and farmers are struggling to put their lives back together after they have lost not hundreds, but thousands of cattle. Seven lives have been lost trying to save the cattle. The emotional toll is devastating. Imagine if your family lost absolutely everything in less than a day. It would be hard to get out of bed the next morning and go to work or even think about where to start the rebuilding process.
Farmers and ranchers are stewards of the land – we care about our land and our livestock and many of the affected families have been on their land raising cattle for multiple generations. Blood, sweat and tears are a constant occurrence in grass management and raising cattle. This fire wiped all of that out – and many ranchers and farmers are just starting calving season, so not only were the cows lost to the fire but many, many baby calves perished as well. There is not much, if any, grass in the area to feed the remaining cows and there is an abundance of orphaned calves. The whole situation seems quite hopeless.
But these wonderful people are literally pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and getting to work while their peers, neighbors and friends empty their pockets and hay barns to help them get back on their feet. Donations of hay, fencing supplies, food, clothing and money are pouring in from all over the country to help these folks out. Rural America will not let our own suffer – high school kids are soliciting donations at Tractor Supply stores, livestock auction markets are contributing funds from donated animals, and ranchers are leaving their own homes to go help their neighbors clean up the damage. Additionally, Cargill has donated $50,000 in new fencing materials to help with the rebuilding efforts. There is no shortage of grace or generosity in rural America.
- Kansas Livestock Foundation Disaster Relief
- Fire Relief for Oklahoma Cattlemen
- State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund (STAR)
- NE Colorado Immediate Fire Relief for Farmers & Ranchers
Aren’t comfortable donating money? Here are other ways you can get involved with relief efforts:
- Have a fundraiser in your community (pancake feed at the community building, etc)
- Pass the hat at church to collect donations
- Send prayers and good faith to those affected
If you have helped already, THANK YOU! The farmers and ranchers dealing with this loss have had a hard time asking for help but are so appreciative of the outpouring of love and support. This experience has been heart wrenching but the reactions have been heartwarming. On one hand, the fire is a natural disaster that has left so many grieving. On the other, my faith in humanity is restored when I see so many selfless acts of generosity to aid our friends in need. Rural Americans are the salt of the earth and I’m proud to be among such amazing people.
Until next time,
If you haven’t done so already, sign up for posts to be automatically delivered to your inbox! Enter your email address in the right side pane of the home page (I never sell your email address and won’t contact you).