Texas wildfires during April have caused an estimated $20.4 million in agricultural losses, destroying fences, buildings, grazing pastures and resulting in livestock deaths, according to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
“These estimates are preliminary since not all the damages have been reported yet for all fires,” said Dr. David Anderson, AgriLife Extension economist in College Station.
The preliminary financial loss estimates do not include forestry.
The damage estimates to ranch and industry infrastructure represent the “largest portion of fire costs,” Anderson said, which includes fences and agricultural buildings such as barns, livestock holding facilities and other structures.
Approximately 1,200 miles of fence have been estimated destroyed, and a recent AgriLife Extension report indicates four- to six-wire fences with steel posts cost an average $10,000 per mile to build. Fencing can be more expensive depending on the location and the terrain, Anderson said.
“Fencing in a livestock operation is one of the primary necessities and is one of the most costly expenditures in ranching,” Anderson said.
Meanwhile, the amount of grazing land that has been lost to the state’s wildfires has also been a financial hardship on Texas ranching operations.
“Lost grazing for the year is the second-largest financial loss category,” Anderson said. “More than 2 million acres have burned during this fire season. This, coupled with the lack of hay and grazing availability, is forcing many cattle to be taken to market.”
Livestock losses are estimated using market values, he said. Livestock losses are expected to be underestimated due to later death loss from injuries incurred from the fires.
So far, financial loss totals are still being calculated, Anderson said. These estimates also don’t include additional costs from moving livestock and securing other property to graze.
More than 500 cattle, horses and sheep have been reported killed by this spring’s fires, Anderson said.
Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples is calling on Texans to lend a helping hand by making a donation to the State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund, or STAR Fund. To assist farmers or ranchers who have suffered losses from the wildfires, monetary donations can be made to the fund by visiting http://www.TexasAgriculture.gov.
“These raging wildfires are catastrophic in nature, destroying homes, killing livestock and devastating the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers who dedicate their lives to supplying us with food, clothing and other essential daily needs,” Staples said.
“As these fires sweep through rural Texas, fences are dismantled and cattle and other livestock are left to roam. Through the STAR Fund, we can help our fellow Texans reestablish their lives, rebuild fences and restore basic operations that will ultimately assist in keeping the public safe.”