Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economists project the Panhandle wildfires caused $123 million in preliminary agricultural losses, making it the costliest on record.

More than 1.2 million acres burned beginning Feb. 26, making it the largest wildfire in Texas history. The losses include more than 12,000 cattle deaths, lost grazing values and fence repair costs, according to economists. The initial loss estimates span from February through the middle of March.

Barbed wife fence that was destroyed by the wildfires in the Texas Panhandle. The ground is burned and part of the fence post is missing. Preliminary Texas Panhandle wildfire agriculture losses have topped $123 million
The Panhandle wildfires caused $68.7 million in ranch infrastructure losses, which includes fences, barns, corrals, well pump motors, windmills, stocks of hay or feed. (Sam Craft/Texas A&M AgriLife)

“AgriLife Extension continues to be committed in providing resources needed for landowners, livestock producers and individuals impacted from this historic wildfire,” said Rick Avery, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension director. “The recovery process will be ongoing and AgriLife Extension agents and specialists will continue to provide support. We appreciate the ongoing efforts of our dedicated agent network and industry partners.”

The agency compiled loss estimates as part of a report submitted to the legislative Panhandle Wildfires Investigative Committee.

Loss categories

The following are loss estimates by category compiled by AgriLife Extension economists:

  • $68.7 million: Ranch infrastructure, fences, barns, corrals, well pump motors and windmills, stocks of hay or feed.
  • $26 million: Lost long-term grazing in fire damaged pastures and range and short-term emergency feeding.
  • $27 million: Cattle losses due to wildfires. Livestock loss estimates include both cows and estimated losses to the season’s calf crop. Another $1 million in miscellaneous includes disposal costs for deceased animals and forced marketing losses.

“These loss estimates are likely to continue to grow as more details emerge as the wildfire risks remain high this spring,” said David Anderson, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension livestock marketing economist, Bryan-College Station.

Cattle prices continue to climb as the nation’s cow herd is the smallest since 1961. Recent calf prices have hit all-time highs, but Anderson said little impact from the wildfires is expected on cattle prices or retail beef prices.

However, there will be considerable fencing costs following the aftermath of the wildfire.

“What we will see is a significant increase in replacement costs for fencing due to the increase in materials cost,” said DeDe Jones, AgriLife Extension risk management specialist in Amarillo. “Fence rebuilding costs are in the range of $3 per foot to $4 per foot depending on the type of fencing and the type of country.”

Supply points

AgriLife Extension deployed its Disaster Assessment and Recovery, DAR, agents on Feb. 28 to support Animal Supply Points at Pampa, Borger, Canadian and a satellite location at Miami. Hay, livestock feed and other resources were distributed to ranchers in need. Those supply points continue operations to serve the needs of area ranchers.

“Our DAR agents as well as our county agent network have been working to distribute hundreds of round bales of hay, livestock feed and to assist with field assessments and identification of cattle,” said Monty Dozier, Ph.D., DAR program director, Bryan-College Station. “Our agents have been working tirelessly to make sure needs are fulfilled. We also want to thank those throughout Texas and out of state who have donated. Their support has been overwhelming.”

A cow drinks from a water tank with land burned by the Texas Panhandle fires in the background
A Hereford cow drinks from a tank as land burned by the Smokehouse Creek Fire surrounds it. (Sam Craft/Texas A&M AgriLife)

Disaster assistance

AgriLife Extension is providing information on assistance programs offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency to assist producers who have suffered losses on their land or with livestock and fences due to the fires.

Texans affected by the wildfires are encouraged to submit property damage utilizing the Individual State of Texas Assessment Tool, iSTAT, Damage Surveys. This will help state officials identify resource needs.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved Gov. Greg Abbott’s request for disaster declarations in Texas communities affected by the Panhandle wildfires. Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information, and download applications at sba.gov/disaster. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 or email [email protected] for more information on SBA disaster

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