BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (DTN) -- Final numbers have been released for the number of cattle killed in severe flooding that took place around the area of Hereford, Texas, during the recent Memorial Day holiday weekend, May 26-27.
Early on, some news outlets pumped up losses to 10,000 and more head. But now, with flood waters receded and cleanup mostly complete, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) has confirmed losses of about 4,000 head. A majority of these losses were at one feed yard, located in a low area with a nearby river, which exacerbated the flash flooding. However, multiple yards suffered losses.
Ben Weinheimer, president and CEO of TCFA, spoke with DTN for the update. He said the cattle lost were at various stages of the feeding process, meaning not all of them were close to being finished as some earlier reports had indicated. Some cattle would have been as small as 600 to 800 pounds and had not been at the yards long prior to the floods.
Asked if the animals lost were all owned by the affected feed yards, or if some of them were customer-owned (aka "retained ownership"), Weinheimer told DTN that as is the normal business model in the industry there would have been a combination of the two.
Carcass disposal follows guidelines of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). This means carcasses must be disposed of in such a way as not to: cause discharges into or adjacent to water in the state, create or maintain a nuisance condition, or endanger public health and welfare. Non-diseased carcasses are typically collected within 24 hours of death and disposed of within three days of death. Adjustments are made to timelines in a mass-casualty situation. Carcass disposal options generally include on-site burial, composting, or sending the carcass to a solid-waste landfill, renderer, or commercial waste incinerator.
Weinheimer said TCFA is continuing to work with the affected yards to help care for the remaining cattle.
REPORTING ON DISASTERS
Natural disasters, and lost production animals, have led news cycles several times during the last few years. Asked whether he thinks news outlets have reported on these types of losses responsibly, Weinheimer expressed frustration over what he described as "jumping to conclusions on the numbers."
"Trying to grab readers' attention and speak to the possibilities of the scale of some disaster, and doing that in a premature manner, can lead to some fabricated numbers," he said, noting he saw estimates that as many as 25,000 head of cattle had been lost in these recent floods.
"I could not keep up with all the articles," he said. "I think it's best that people get the facts and understand that it will take time to get the actual assessment as to the numbers lost. Reporters expressed frustration with me throughout the week, implying we were dragging our feet and not getting the job done. But due to the nature of the event, it simply took time. There was difficulty retrieving cattle from flood waters. This was mechanically intensive work. We needed to put out factual, not hypothetical information."
Weinberger added that beyond the number of lost cattle, which he called "substantial", there were workers and volunteers who also had to be cared for through the grueling recovery process.
"There was an outpouring of support in this community," he said. "Whatever type of agriculture it is, when we have a natural disaster, you see the good that can come from the bad. Here there was an incredible focus on how to come together as fellow cattle feeders and community members, communicate, and pull together to get back to business quickly and in the best possible way, while prioritizing the job of caring for cattle. We were all running on adrenaline, but that's where we join arms and make it through."
See earlier DTN coverage of this event here: https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Victoria Myers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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