Adding Up Quick: The repair costs the Oklahoma Secretary of Ag already sees after the Smokehouse Creek Fire

The Smokehouse Creek Fire has scorched more than a million acres in the northeastern Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma, taking cattle, pastures and infrastructure. The Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture had a chance to assess the agricultural damage herself.

“Well, I will tell you so many places that is genuinely just charred to the ground and it’s, I think the really tough piece for folks that live out here is they did get some great moisture last year with a little bit of unusual moisture and they’ve tried to be really good stewards and get some grass out there a lot of places, but that became so challenging because the grass is dormant and so it all so much of it has burned and then another unique piece is we got a lot of sandy ground out here too. So now well, that the grass is all burned down. You’ve got that sand and that sand is causing some challenges getting across roads and they don’t typically don’t get a whole lot of moisture. So then lots of discussion today about how long they’d have to be caking and hanging cows and sounds like more than likely into end of May, first part of June, which they typically don’t do out here, and it’s tough. I talked to one producer earlier this morning who has over 80 miles of fence that he has lost and so you can pick whatever math you want to use, but if you say 10 to $15,000 per mile to replacements, that adds up pretty darn quick.”
Blayne Arthur, Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture

The Smokehouse Creek Fire is now 74% contained and as officials continue to research the cause of the devastation, utility provider, XCel Energy has acknowledged its facilities appear to have been involved in an ignition. A lawsuit filed alleged a downed power line on February 26th is what sparked the initial blaze. It claims Xcel Energy Services and two other utilities failed to properly inspect, maintain and replace the wooden pole.

The wildfires have left many livestock with burnt hooves, udders, eyes and smoke inhalation in their lungs.

A Kansas veterinarian dealt with this issue back in 2017 and says the livestock will need to be evaluated individually as damages will be different for each animal. He advises producers to specifically check the eyes, mouth and udders. If the udder is hard, the cows may not produce adequate colostrum or milk. Bulls should be examined because semen can be affected for up to 60 days from any heat. He says 4-H and FFA students could lend a hand in providing for orphaned calves.

All producers should get in contact with their local veterinarian and the Farm Service Agency to see what assistance may be available.

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