Fayette County Extension


Stories of Compassion & Heartbreak: The Heartland Wildfires

Lynne Hayes, Growing America, Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017,  AddThis Sharing Buttons,
Compassion came in many forms in the wake of one of the worst wildfire outbreaks on record in the Heartland.

It came in the form of heroes—professional firefighters and regular cowpokes alike, running into the smoke and flames to save people and homesteads, some losing their own lives.

It came by the truckload from communities near and far that sent towering round bales and tanks of milk replacer to help feed hungry livestock.

Mercifully, it also came at the end of many shotgun barrels as distraught ranchers were forced to shoot cattle and days-old calves that lay dying from whole body burns, their ear tags melted into their skin. 

While some may say, “it’s just a cow,” otherwise tough ranchers would disagree. This awful job brought tears, and images they won’t soon forget.

“We did what had to be done,” rancher, Mark Kaltenbach, 69, told the New York Times. “They’re gentle. They know us. We know them. You just thought, ‘Wow, I am sorry.’”

Destruction For Miles

The National Interagency Fire Center estimates that more than 1.6 million acres were destroyed across Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado, along with as much as 80% of many ranch families’ herds.

Today, the burned acreage (the most acres burned this early in the season since 2007 says the Texas A&M Forest Service) is a frightening, post-apocalyptic landscape, still littered with cattle remains yet to be buried, pieces of charred fence line, burned-out farm equipment and blackened, ash-covered pastures, stripped naked of spring growth.

It will take several months for grasses to regenerate, assuming the areas get enough rain. The rebuilding of fences, herds, and livelihoods will take much longer. And a sense of security—that was lost as well, along with seven people.

Hearts & Hands Reach Out To Help

But disaster also gives rise to humanity and community, and compassion of all kinds has brought welcome relief to the wildfire victims.

Ag groups from across the country have sent skeins of fence wire and new metal posts to help begin repairs on millions of dollars worth of fencing lost (estimated to cost about $10,000 per mile). Students from several 4-H and FFA chapters have volunteered to help with cleanup in affected areas of Kansas, and received hospitality in return as families opened up guest bedrooms and living room floors to put the kids up.

Rose Hartschuh of Bucyrus, Ohio is spearheading a drive to gather hay, feed, fencing, supplies, and donations of gift cards to ranchers in Kansas. 30 trucks full of hay have already headed west, and a convoy of 50 more filled with supplies is expected to leave Dayton, Ohio on Friday.

“We know that if there were a disaster in Ohio people from all over the country would be reaching out to us,” said Hartschuh.

In Lubbock, Texas, about 150 miles from the fire-stricken Panhandle, rancher, Ruth Snowden is working to organize a cattle drive. Her plan is to “donate a cow, donate a calf, donate anything so we can help them rebuild a herd but also help the ranchers that need money to buy hay and buy feed.”  Snowden said she plans to start reaching out to local feedlots and volunteer truck drivers to see if they can get on board with the drive.

In central Missouri, the Young Farmers and Ranchers (YFR) division of the Pike County Farm Bureau “adopted” a family hundreds of miles away in Ashland, Kansas, whose ranch was destroyed in the fire. Two tractor trailer loads of hay arrived earlier this week, with a second convoy of hay and milk replacer set to head out early Saturday morning.

Charlie Chapuis and Gary Hamilton, Sr., who led the first YFR convoy, agreed that the destruction was far more widespread than they first imagined.

“There just was nothing,” he said. “It was all gone.” But Chapuis is heartened by the outpouring of donations to the cause that he said are “flooding in.”

The Farm Bureau group there also held a “Barn-Warming” event that raised $5,000 that went toward assistance. Chapuis and Hamilton will get to meet their “adopted” ranch family this weekend.

“The agriculture community has become such a small percentage of the nation’s population as a whole. A lot of times we get overlooked by the national government and things, but I think everybody’s responding pretty well to this now,” Hamilton said. “But farmers, they kind of take care of their own any more. I mean…we have to.”

Relief efforts have also been initiated in Oregon, and Oklahoma, and other states, as well as by numerous organizations and companies, including Merck Animal Health.

No Clear Cause

While no one is certain as to what sparked the wildfires, a representative from the Texas A&M Forest Service told one news outlet that “there appeared to be nothing that indicated malicious intent.” Speculation as to the cause has ranged from a cigarette carelessly tossed from a truck, or the spark from a train, or power lines clashing together in the winds. The biggest culprit, though, appears to be Mother Nature. This after all, is fire season in the Heartland, and it has been particularly dry in these parts, with very little precipitation, unseasonably high temperatures, and plenty of wind.

“It was a perfect storm,” observed a representative from the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association.

Government Efforts

The governors of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have declared emergencies, and the US Department of Agriculture is expected to make disaster relief assistance available.

The New York Times (NYT) evaluated the relief situation in a recent article, noting that emergency programs run by the US Department of Agriculture — which is facing 21 percent cuts under President Trump’s budget proposal — will help ranchers, up to a point. One provides up to $200,000 per rancher for replacing burned fences. Another offers up to $125,000 for livestock losses. In response to the fires, USDA is expected to offer $6 million in aid to affected farmers and ranchers to help restore their land, water and fences.

“We’re not asking for freebies here,” Kansas rancher, Garth Gardiner, told the NYT. “We’re going to work our tails off to get this thing rebuilt. We’re going to get the blisters on our hands and roll up our sleeves and do the labor,” but added, “We could use a little help.”

Cattleman Associations around the nation are working to assist those impacted by the fires. Below is a list of the associations taking donations and the areas each is focused on:

KansasKansas Livestock Association is organizing hay and fencing material donations for delivery to affected areas in Kansas. To make in-kind donations, call KLA at (785) 273-5115. Cash donations can be made through the Kansas Livestock Foundation (KLF), KLA’s charitable arm, by going to www.kla.org/donationform.aspx.

There is a need for milk replacer for calves that have lost their mothers in the wildfire. If you are so inclined to donate a bag, Ashland Feed and Seed said they can take credit card orders over the phone. A bag costs $44.50. Their number is (620) 635-2856. Thank you!

Sisters of the Kansas State University chapter of Sigma Alpha have started a fundraiser to further support those affected by the fires in Kansas. They are selling “Pray for the Plains” t-shirts, and all proceeds will be donated to the Kansas Livestock Association to help ranchers affected by the fires.

Sigma Alpha at Fort Hays State University is taking donations to help the farmers and ranchers affected by the fire. We partnered with KLA (Kansas Livestock Association) and set up a drop-off location for donations to be taken to at Lang Diesel of Hays (1366 Toulon Ave). Donations will be taken in through Friday, March 17th, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm on weekdays. Suggested donations to be focused on fencing supplies such as: steel posts, electric fence posts, line posts, barbed wire, #9 wire, insulators (t post and electric fence post), long staples, corner posts, 2″ steel pipe (10′ in length) or monetary donations. Contact: Mariah Utter at 308-880-0029 or Lang Diesel at 785-639-5876 for more information.

The University of Nebraska Sigma Alpha- Alpha Delta Chapter? is collecting donations in Lincoln, Nebraska, to assist with the relief efforts in Kansas. Donations can be dropped off at the Tractor Supply parking lot at 7300 Husker Circle, Lincoln, NE 68504 from 7 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Friday until 2 p.m.

“Together we are asking all of you to help us in our quest to fill the semi (which can hold 55,000 pounds) We are looking for any types of donations that include but aren’t limited to: clothes, non-perishable foods, wire fence, fence posts, fencing tools, gloves, feed. The one thing they’re really in need of is fencing supplies, barb wire, t-posts, etc. Those supplies were gone within a day there. If anyone has some extra laying around, anything would be of use! These farmers and ranchers have lost all of their livelihood and any little thing helps, even if it is just continuous prayer for them. If you have any questions, let us know! Thank you in advance!”

There is an immediate need for hay, feed, fencing supplies, individuals willing to provide trucking, etc. for the farmers and ranchers devastated by yesterday’s fires. Donations should be taken to CHS Grainland in Haxtun. A loader and scale are both available, if needed. Contact Rick Unrein 970-520-3565 for more information about dropping off donations. Donations can also be dropped off at Justin Price’s farm (11222 CR 7 Sedgwick, CO). For more information, please contact: Kent Kokes 970-580-8108, John Michal 970-522-2330, or Justin Price 970-580-6315

For more information on how to donate and aid these producers please visit http://coloradofarmbureau.com/disasterfund/.

Checks payable to Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation, cash and credit card payments are being accepted at this time. Please note Disaster Fund-CO Wildfire in the memo line on the check. Cash and checks can be sent to:

Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation
Attn: Disaster Fund
9177 E. Mineral Circle
Centennial, CO 80112

There is a huge need for hay to feed the livestock because there won’t be spring or summer pastures, as well as a huge need for people to donate and haul manure, crop cover, oats, etc. so we can slow down the blowing soil. NE Colorado Immediate Fire Relief for Farmers & Ranchers lists the following contacts for livestock supplies delivery and coordination:

Manure and cover crops:
Dave Gibson 970.571.5383

Hay and fencing supplies:
Kindra Plumb 970.520.2771
Jeff Plumb 970.520.6157
Dan Firme 970.520.0949

To help with rebuilding in Colorado, there is a fencing drive by Jakes Feed, LLC of Holyoke, Colo. Jake’s Feed, has been working with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association to help fulfill the devastating need of fencing supplies. They can be reached at 970-854-7220.

If you would like to donate to this relief effort, you can do so by mail or online. Make checks payable to Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation and put “Fire Relief” in the memo line and send to P.O. Box 82395, Oklahoma City, OK 73148. To donate online, visit www.okcattlemen.org.

If you would like to donate hay or trucking services for hay, you can do so by contacting either the Harper County Extension Office at 580-735-2252 or Buffalo Feeders at 580-727-5530 to make arrangements or provide trucking services.

Additional contacts for assisting those in need in Oklahoma include:

Tyree Ag / US-283 Laverne, OK, just over 1 mile north of stop light, last business north side of Laverne, east side of the road
Contact – Jay Dee Nielsen / 580-334-6819

Dale Long / 1 mile east, ½ mile north, ½ mile east of Gate, OK
Contact – Dale Long / 580-571-1249

May Coop Elevator / May, OK
Contact – Tom Fanning / 580-727-5530

Buffalo Coop / 322 E Harper, Buffalo, OK 73834
Contact – Beverly Mings / 580-735-2533

Western Equipment / 3999 Lakeview Drive, Woodward, OK
Contact – Caleb Zook / 580-254-0080

Knowles Elevators / Knowles, Oklahoma
Contact: Joe Hamilton / 580-273-3136 or 580-273-6135

Three supply points have been established to collect donated hay. Each has been listed below. If you have hay that you can donate and transport to either supply point, please contact the location directly prior to transportation.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, who is overseeing the livestock supply points, has told us they now have an ample supply of hay and feed to meet ranchers needs for the next 2-3 weeks. If you’re loaded or on the way, you’re still more than welcome, but if you’re still in the planning stages, please give them a call first.

Fencing supplies are still needed, as are monetary donations to support ranchers in the future. Fencing supplies can go to the AgriLife supply points. Monetary donations can be made to the Texas Dept. of Agriculture STAR Fund.

Supply Point 1

Lipscomb County Show Facility
202 West Main Street,
Lipscomb, Texas
Contact – J.R. Sprague
Office # 806-862-4601 / Cell # 806-202-5288

Supply Point 2

Clyde Carruth Pavilion
301 Bull Barn Drive
Pampa, Texas
Contact – Mike Jeffcoat
Office # 806-669-8033 / Cell # 580-467-0753

Supply Point 3

Hemphill County Livestock
Hackberry Trail
Canadian, Texas 79011
Contact – Andy Holloway, 806-823-9114

Texas Department of Agriculture Hay Hotline
TDA’s hay hotline helps agricultural producers locate forage and hay supplies for sale. If you need hay or would like to donate hay, visit http://www.gotexan.org/hayhotlinehome.aspx or call 877-429-1998.

Texas Hay Import Precautions: Various types of hay can be carriers of pests and diseases that are harmful to other crops. Some hay shipments containing corn, broomcorn, sorghums and sudan grass may have restrictions on entry into the State of Texas. Also, hay imported from fire ant infested areas of other states will be limited to distribution in fire ant infested areas of Texas. For more information about restrictions on hay movement, please contact the TDA Agriculture and Consumer Protection Division at 800-835-5832.

Agriculture Indemnity Program
The Livestock Indemnity Program is authorized by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill) to provide benefits to livestock producers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by adverse weather or disasters.

For more details, contact your local FSA office. To find your local FSA county office, visit http://www.offices.usda.gov. To learn more about FSA disaster assistance programs, visit http://www.disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

Wildfire Report
To keep up with the current fire danger situation reports, visit http://www.tfsweb.tamu.edu/currentsituation/.

Lost or Found Livestock
If you find cattle or other livestock with official identification, document the number, location of the animal(s), and call the TAHC at 512-719-0733 or 806-354-9335 and TAHC will contact the owner. If you find stray cattle that have a brand, call Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) at 817-332-7064 for brand identification. Visit http://www.tscra.org for more information.

If cattle have strayed onto your property, you must report them to the sheriff’s office in the county you are located in within five days of discovery to be eligible for reasonable payment for maintenance of or damages caused by the estray livestock. For more information regarding Texas’ estray laws visit: Texas Agriculture Code, Chapter 142.

Reporting Losses: Affected Ranchers
Affected ranchers are being asked to call their AgriLife extension offices with any reports of dead or injured cattle. Office numbers of affected counties are:

Gray County (Pampa) 806-669-8033
Hemphill County (Canadian) 806-323-9114
Lipscomb County (Lipscomb) 806-862-4601
Ochiltree County (Perryton) 806-435-4501
Roberts County (Miami) 806-868-3191
Wheeler County (Wheeler) 806-826-5243

Carcass Disposal
If you are affected by the wildfire, call the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ) regional office that serves your county. at 800-832-8224 or visit their website at http://www.tceq.texas.gov.

Also, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers (TSCRA) Special Rangers are in the impacted area assessing the damage and assisting TSCRA members. If you need assistance, please contact our offices at 817-332-7064 or fill out the:


Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association continues to send our thoughts and prayers to the ranching communities affected by the devastating fires throughout the Midwest last week. There is an immediate need for fencing supplies in these areas. The following includes various relief efforts throughout Kentucky to support those ranchers.

Hayden Farms – Daviess County
Daniel Hayden will be taking donations of fencing supplies this Thursday, March 16th. You can contact Daniel at (270) 570-2815 if you would like to coordinate a drop-off with him.

Clark County
The Southern States of Winchester will be collecting fencing donations at their store located at 21 Pendleton St, Winchester, KY 40391. They will be delivering the donations they receive on Monday, March 20th. You can contact the Southern States store at (859) 744-3313 or contact Mike Stokley at 859-771-9195.

Breckinridge County
The Breckinridge County Extension Service will be collecting fencing donations at their office located at 1377 S Hwy 261, Hardinsburg, KY 40143. You can also drop-off donations at the Hancock, Daviess, Webster, Meade, and Ohio County Extension Offices, which will then be delivered to Breckinridge County. They will be delivering the donations they receive on Friday, March 24th. You can contact Bobby Bell at (270) 547-8547, Evan Tate at (270) 668-3167, or Jeremy Armstrong at (270) 668-2056.

Monetary donations can also be sent to the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association office located at 176 Pasadena Drive, Lexington, KY 40503. Checks can be made payable to Kentucky Cattlemen’s Foundation. Please note Disaster Fund – Wildfire in the memo line on the check.


The Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association & Prairie Creek Seed are working to help fill the need to forage and cover crop seed to repair damaged pastures and protect soil that is now bare due to fire damage to crops.

Mail Checks to: Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association
PO Box 12, Maple Plain, MN 55359
Write: Fire Seed Donation in the check memo.


The surviving cattle and ranching families are in desperate need of essentials like hay and fencing. If you would like to make a donation of fencing, material, hay, trucking or time, please email OCA Communications Director, Katie Schrock, at katie.schrock@orcattle.com.

North Dakota

The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and Foundation have teamed up to support and rekindle hope for the cattle-ranching victims of the recent Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado wildfires. In addition to their gift of $15,000, they are inviting others to offer their own financial support through the “Rising from the Ashes” Wildfire Disaster Relief Program. 100 percent of the donations will go to the victims. Gifts are tax-deductible charitable contributions.

Checks may be written to NORTH DAKOTA STOCKMEN’S FOUNDATION with “Rising from the Ashes” in the memo. Send to 407 S 2nd St., Bismarck, ND 58504.

For info, call 701-223-2522 or visit ndstockmen.org.


The Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and Dream Dirt are partnering on an online auction to raise funds for victims of the recent wildfires in Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas and Kansas. The auction will take place on Friday, April 7 at 10 a.m.

In addition to hay, affected cattle producers are in need of fencing supplies, milk replacer, seed to re-establish pastures, and more. The wildfire recovery will last many months and needs are expected to change throughout that time. Many Iowa cattlemen are eager to help.

There are three ways to help with this fundraising effort:

Donate items to the auction. Contact the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association with the terms of your auction donation.
Participate in the auction. 100% of auction proceeds will be distributed to the affected states.
Consider a cash donation. Donors will receive a receipt for tax purposes. Checks may be made out to the Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation and mailed to 2055 Ironwood Ct., Ames, IA 50010
The team at DreamDirt, ICA and ICF are donating all of their services, advertising and auction. 100%, every dollar raised and not a penny less will be sent for direct help of those who need our help.

Your donation will be to the Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation which is a 501C3 charitable organization and you will receive a tax deductible donation receipt for the amount your item sells for after the auction closes.


The Florida Cattlemen’s Association & Florida Cattlemen’s Foundation will be sending donations from each respective organization for “Wildfire Relief” to both Oklahoma and Kansas to help in the recovery efforts of the livestock producer families that have suffered devastating losses in the recent wildfires.

If any individual, company or organization would like to join in sending relief we will bundle contributions and pass on all of the donations made through the Florida Cattlemen’s Foundation a 501(c)(3) organization.

All contributions to the Florida Cattlemen’s Foundation are 100% tax deductible.

mail payment to:

Florida Cattlemen’s Foundation
P.O. Box 421929
Kissimmee, Florida. 34742-1929
Memo: Wildfire Relief

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