The numbers have been crunched: The March 7 wildfires that ravaged parts of Beaver, Harper and Woodward counties in Oklahoma had an economic impact exceeding $16 million.
“In Oklahoma, more than 310,000 acres burned, causing a wide variety of losses to livestock, pastures, hay, fences and facilities,” said Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock marketing specialist. “Estimates of losses based on preliminary information currently available sum to a total of $14.6 million for cattle operations.”
A large hog farm also sustained losses of some 6,000 sows and an unknown number of weaning pigs. Peel said hog farm losses of animals and facilities will likely total $2 million or more.
The estimated cattle industry losses in Oklahoma include: fence replacement and repair, $6.7 million; livestock killed or destroyed, $3.5 million; burned facilities and corrals, $2.2 million; emergency feed, $1.3 million, and burned pasture and hay, $920,000.
“These estimates are based, in part, on preliminary totals of some 3,000 head of cattle lost and more than 1,100 miles of fences impacted,” Peel said. “The current totals do not include any estimates for equipment losses, meaning estimates may increase as a more comprehensive assessment of the losses is completed.”
Oklahoma secretary of agriculture Jim Reese said, “We feel these numbers are low and expect them to increase in the coming days.”
Although the losses incurred in the fires will have significant and long-lasting financial impacts on the operations and families affected, Peel said no significant market impacts on livestock prices are expected.
“The losses incurred are very personal, both in terms of those directly affected and the outpouring of support from volunteers,” said Darrell McBee, Harper County Extension Office director and agricultural educator.
As the region’s primary coordinator of relief efforts, McBee said help has been rushing in from individuals, groups and organizations from 30 states encompassing everything from much-needed hay to sustain the surviving livestock and milk replacer to feed the calves orphaned by the wildfires to fencing supplies, bottled water and much more; this is not to mention providing on-site labor and equipment for hauling hay, bottle feeding calves and rebuilding fence lines.
“We took phone calls from more than 3,000 people during the first 10 days,” McBee said. “The outpouring of support has really showcased that America really is an extended community when the need arises.”
The Harper County Extension Office is part of the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, a state agency administered by Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources.
“Our cooperative extension staff and faculty from northwestern Oklahoma and across the state have been stalwarts, investing their time, expertise and hard work in meeting the needs of farmers and ranchers in the region affected by the fire,” said Tom Coon, Oklahoma State University vice president of agricultural programs and dean and director of the ag division.