By Sara Brown
Recent rains in north central Texas are helping bring recovery back to the region after more than 220,000 acres of grazing land went up in smoke in wildfire outbreaks in April, costing Texas agriculture nearly $35 million.
Drought conditions and wildfire outbreaks have been plaguing the entire area for some time, leaving livestock producers in a lurch for feed and facility supplies. With multiple reports of animal losses, numerous burned facilities and miles of fence damaged, the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is reminding producers there are funds and information that can help.
Slideshow of Texas wildfire damage:
"Producers are thankful for the recent rains,” says Dee Ann Littlefield with the Texas NRCS. "It will take some time until pasture conditions return to normal. A lot of producers are seeking technical information, such as how long to keep animals off pastures and how to control weeds as regrowth occurs.”
Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Texas producers can apply for cost-share assistance to replace interior fencing and incentives to delay grazing. Technical information, such as environmental management practices and production information are also available.
"We are in a waiting game, trying to be patient until Mother Nature heals herself,” Littlefield says.
Resources to Help. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples is requesting disaster assistance from USDA after wildfires swept through North Texas, totaling losses of more than 220,000 acres of pasture, about 1,500 miles of fence and almost 500 cattle with calves.
The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association has secured two grades of barbed wire and 6' T post at cost or below cost for wildfire victims to replace lost fences. Steve Sikes, owner of AMSCO Steel and a member of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association is the source for these fencing materials. These materials are for wildfire victims only in Wichita, Archer, Young, Clay, Jack and Montague Counties. For information on costs and to arrange pick up of barbed wire and T-post, call Rooter Brite at (940) 841-0132.
A hay distribution center has been set up at the Bowie Rodeo grounds, and producers from northern Texas have donated hay to fire victims. Anyone wishing to donate hay or transport donated hay should contact Gaylen Chandler at 979-255-9857, or contact the Hay and Grazing Hotline at (877) 429-1998 or this website.
A ranching clinic focusing on range stewardship and effective stockmanship will be held May 11 at the Brite Ranch in Bowie, Texas, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The clinic will also talk about grazing land management and range recovery strategies after wildfires.
Livestock producers should go to their local NRCS offices for specific information about the requirements for EQIP and other NRCS programs. Before producers begin fence construction, they need to check with NRCS to adhere to the EQIP guidelines and specifications to put up replacement fences and other facilities or improvements. Producers also need to keep receipts to be reimbursed for their expenses through NRCS or the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Producers that have lost livestock need to take video or photographs to document losses in order to be eligible for reimbursement through FSA.
As of April 28, 46.8% of land in Texas showed drought impact according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
EQIP is a national cost-share program that provides voluntary conservation assistance for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals.
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For questions or comments, e-mail Sara Brown, Livestock and Production Editor.