OMAHA (DTN) -- The enormous damage wrought by the wildfires that tore across the Southern Plains last week has spurred an outpouring of donations and aid from farmers and ranchers across the country.
"We've been overwhelmed by the love of the ag community," said David Clawson, president of the Kansas Livestock Association and a rancher and farmer himself. "The hay started rolling in before the fires were even out," he told DTN.
In a matter of minutes and hours, the fires destroyed homes, farms and ranching operations that some producers had spent decades building in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. An estimated 1.5 million acres were affected there, and fires also burned in Nebraska and Colorado.
Farmers and ranchers from many of the surrounding states have stepped in to help their fellow ag producers. Donations in the form of money, hay, fencing material, water tanks, portable corrals, feed, seeds and medicines have all been given in hopes of helping those devastated by these fires.
Businesses, individuals and service organizations have donated labor and thousands of dollars of supplies and have lined up transportation of these items to the affected regions.
HELP ROLLS IN
Clawson operates a cow-calf operation in Clark County, Kansas, as well as a row-crop farm in neighboring Meade County. He said he was able to get most of his cattle out of the reach of the fires as flames licked at his heels last week. However, most of his pastures burned, along with many neighbors' pastures, homes and barns.
Clawson said the outpouring of support in the form of hay, fencing and labor from local communities and across the country has been "heartwarming."
"We need that for the trauma we went through last week," he said.
The most pressing needs for livestock that survived the fires are hay and fencing. Clawson said enough hay has been donated in his area to last a week, but grass won't show up for another 45 to 60 days -- and that's only if the region receives rain.
Clawson said ranchers continue to monitor their cattle. Some cattle are turning up blind and singed and must be euthanized.
"Hats off to those ranchers and vets who had to euthanize cattle last week" Clawson said. "We had to get them (cattle) out of their misery."
Hoof issues are a continuing concern for surviving cattle. If a cow's hooves were burned or got too hot, they will begin to lose them in a few weeks.
PRODUCERS STEP UP
Among those offering help is Jaclyn Wilson, a cattle rancher from Lakeside, Nebraska.
Wilson posted a message last Friday on social media, stating that she was heading to a bull sale in northeastern Kansas this week and wanted to fill an empty livestock trailer with supplies on the trip down. The response was so well received in her western Nebraska community that all of the donated items won't fit in her livestock trailer.
"It was shared multiple times on Facebook, and before I knew it, we raised about $9,000," Wilson told DTN. "I guess having to make another trip down is a good problem to have."
Wilson said she has a good friend whose family ranch operation in the Texas Panhandle was affected by the fires. She said she knew that she had to do something to help out.
Her purchases include metal fence posts, three pallets of barbed wire and bags of protein cubes and milk replacer.
After consulting with people she knew from the Sunflower State, Wilson planned to drop off the supplies east of Hays on Thursday. From there, the supplies will be distributed to those who need it, she said.
Farther to the east, Kalena Bruce, whose family has a cow/calf operation near Stockton, Missouri, also decided she wanted to help. As the 2017 American Farm Bureau chair for the Young Farmers and Ranchers committee, Bruce and her husband, Billy, organized a delivery of 14 loads of hay to Beaver County, Oklahoma, last weekend.
"He actually left again this morning (Thursday) at 5 a.m. with eight more loads of hay and fencing supplies, this time going to Ashland, Kansas," Bruce said.
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Bruce knows from experience what a little help from other farmers can mean in the wake of Mother Nature's fury.
In 2004, an EF4 tornado hit her home area and caused great damage to the community as a whole and to their own farm. They were aided by strangers then, and now they are eager to pay it forward to other ag producers facing difficult times, she said.
Bruce said they will continue to help until help is not needed. She said she would like to organize a work weekend to build fences in the affected areas.
"I know there is a group from Iowa who is going down there this weekend," she said. "Farm Bureau groups as far as Pennsylvania, Ohio and South Carolina are organizing to send supplies as well."
In addition to donations from businesses and individuals, service groups are also pitching in to help those affected by the fires.
Mike Berdo, a farmer from Washington, Iowa, said the 4-H club he helps lead decided to raise money for the Southern Plains wildfire victims. His group was able to purchase a pallet of milk replacer with the money they raised, he said.
"We have a great county 4-H leader who challenged all the groups to help out, and they have responded in a big way," Berdo said.
A local person's connection to families affected by the fires in Kansas resulted in the Iowa community donating several items to the relief effort, he said. They have several trucking companies in their area and these companies are donating their time and trucks to move hay, fencing supplies and feed to the affected areas.
Clawson, the Kansas rancher, said 4-H students in the area in and around Clark County are adopting orphan calves to bottle feed as they recover from the fire. Clawson expressed gratitude for local FFA members who are spending their spring break helping to take down damaged fencing and repair fencing.
HOW TO HELP
For anyone nearby looking to contribute to recovery efforts, hay and fencing supplies are immediate needs. Cattle will continue to need hay for months ahead.
Keep in mind that if you grow hay in an area affected by the fire ant quarantine, which stretches across the South from Texas to the Carolinas, hay donations require additional inspections. Contact your local state department of agriculture for more details. See the quarantine map here: http://bit.ly/….
People can also make monetary donations through the Kansas Livestock Association.
Clawson said every donated dollar will go directly to ranchers in 2017 who were effected by fires. Effected ranchers will fill out a form detailing lost cattle, damaged and replaced fencing and any lost medications.
A committee of ranchers from an unaffected part of the state will group the applications into levels of need and allocate funds to the ranchers based on those levels of need.
Nancy Brown, director of policy development with the Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB), reiterated those needs for local Kansas ranchers.
Brown told DTN that KFB is coordinating donations of hay and fencing supplies, as well as their delivery and distribution. Brown noted that mineral tubs would also be a welcome donation as cattle continue to recover.
Brown also urged anyone wanting to help to donate through the KLA donation page. "Cash is important for future needs such as animal health and rebuilding of herds," she said.
Brown recommending visiting the www.kfb.org/firerelief and www.kla.org website to find ways to help.
Here are some donation contacts/drop-off locations for Colorado and Oklahoma, according to the Working Ranch Cowboys Association (WRCA) website (http://wrca.org/…):
Contact Person -- Rick Unrein
220 West Denver St.
Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation
9177 E. Mineral Circle
Kent Kokes (970) 580-8108
John Michal (970) 522-2330
Justin Price (970) 580-6315
Harper County Oklahoma State University Extension Office
1001 N. Hoy St.
Contact Person - Caleb Nelson
Contact Person - Jay Dee Nielsen
Contact Person - Caleb Zook
3999 Lakeview Dr.
2005 N. Main St.
There are several different places to donate hay or fencing supplies in Kansas, according to the KFB. They are:
Hay and Fencing Delivery Coordination
Neal and Jeff Kay at Ashland Feed and Seed
All deliveries go to 1975 County Road U in Ashland (on the south end of Main Street on the south end of town).
Call before heading out: (620) 635-5001 or (620) 635-0072
Clark County Volunteer Labor Coordination
Contact Clark County Farm Bureau coordinator Jodeen Leaming-Udovich at (620) 338-1347.
Animal Care Needs
The Ashland Veterinary Center is coordinating donations of livestock needs such as tanks and portable corrals.
You can also contact Nancy Brown at Kansas Farm Bureau at (785) 587-6111.
Anyone wishing to donate hay or fencing materials to those affected by the Texas Panhandle wildfires can drop them off at three livestock supply points. They are:
Clyde Carruth Pavilion
301 Bull Barn Drive
Canadian AH&N Ranch Supply
100 Hackberry Trail
Lipscomb County Show Facility
202 West Main Street
The Texas Department of Agriculture has a Hay Hotline and the number is (512) 463-7476. To leave a message call (512) 463-9360. The Hay Hotline email address is HayHotline@TexasAgriculture.gov.
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