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Post-fire recovery assistance available


Ranchers, farmers and livestock owners have been seriously affected by the wildfires that raged through the area on April 9. Many livestock were lost and more have been affected from burns and smoke inhalation. There are also land and resource issues dealing with dead animals, loss of forage and fences. There are local, state and federal agencies that can help.

If possible, ranchers are urged to get their cattle off the burned ground so cattle don't continue to breathe dusty air and ash.

"We are worried about subsequent pneumonia from smoke inhalation," says Dr. Arn Anderson with the Cross Timbers Veterinary Hospital. "Draining eyes, coughing and respiratory distress are all signs of pneumonia."

Anderson says any cattle that are limping or are singed, or missing ears or lips, or that have blistered udders need to be collected into a pen and checked by a veterinarian. The injured livestock can also be taken to the Bowie Livestock Sale where they will be checked by veterinarian and then sold if cattle do not have a fever. Anderson suggests a long acting antibiotic shot for small herds that were affected by smoke in the area.

Any cattle that have been found need to be taken to the Bowie Livestock Sale where the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers will locate the proper owners.

Any dead animals need to be documented with photography, video, ear tags if possible, or secondary witness is needed. Cattle need to be buried according to state regulations. This information is available at vet clinics, feed stores, and the sheriff's. It is important for cattle to be buried away from water ways and water sources, such as wells. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can help identify appropriate burial sites, using soil information and maps that locate wells and other water sources.

Landowners are allowed to bury up to 25 head of livestock as long as the site is at least 300 yards from any water source. Landowners are required to notify TCEQ with burial locations. TxDOT will pick up deceased animals and bury them at no charge. This service will end on April 21. Owners interested in having deceased cattle removed need to contact Tony Woods at 940-825-3158 or 940-531-2670.

A hay distribution center has been set up at the Bowie rodeo grounds, with producers from all around northern Texas donating hay to the affected fire victims. Anyone wishing to donate hay or transport donated hay should contact Gaylen Chandler at 979-255-9857. The donated hay will be given to wildfire affected ranchers at no charge. Ranchers can receive up to one round bale of hay for every four head of livestock affected by these fires. Producers can also call the Hay and Grazing Hotline toll free number 1-877-429-1998 to request a list of hay suppliers, pasture for lease and/or transporters by fax, e-mail or mail.

Cattle owners that lost livestock in the wildfires may be eligible for a Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) from the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). Proper documentation of deceased animals will be needed to participate in this program. FSA also has an Environmental Conservation Program (ECP) that can help provide financial assistance for boundary fences. Producers that have purchased insurance through FSA's Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) may be eligible for fire losses on pasture or cropland. Because of the existing drought situation, producers in affected counties can apply for low interest loans through FSA Ag Credit that would help with outbuildings, farm structures, farm homes and fences.

"Affected producers should visit with their insurance representatives as soon as possible," says Debra Sanderson, district director for FSA. "For what insurance doesn't cover, we may have programs that we can assist them with financially."

Landowners can apply for possible financial assistance from the NRCS for range deferment and cross fencing financial assistance. The NRCS can also help provide technical assistance that can reduce post-fire damage and aid in the rehabilitation process.

"Once the immediate needs of the livestock have been met," says Don Gohmert, NRCS state conservationist, "We can help landowners start with the rebuilding process on their land."

To find out more about these programs and assistance, landowners and livestock producers are encouraged to contact their NRCS and FSA representatives at the USDA Service Centers located in each county: Archer County 940-574-4612; Clay County 940-538-4681; Jack County 940-567-5641; Montague County 940-872-5329; and Wichita County 940-592-4147.

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