Kansas rancher forced to sell cattle after losing grassland

Mar 16, 2017

Wildfires burned across much of the High Plains region last week, destroying fencing and grassland.
Credit Valarie Smith / High Plains Public Radio

As The Wichita Eagle reports, the loss of grassland will mean financial losses for years to come for some ranchers in western and south central Kansas.

Clark County rancher Greg Goodnight is one of only a few ranchers who did not lose any cattle, but he did lose over 14,000 acres of grassland that forced him to round up his 294 cattle on Monday and send them to Dodge City to be sold.

“It’s quite a destination,” Goodnight said. “Selling the cattle early, they won’t bring near what I’d hoped they would in the time they’d grown on up to 800 pounds. I sold them anywhere from they’re probably 100 pounds light, at least, from what they’d normally be.”

He expects to get $120 to $150 less per head.

Normally by May, Goodnight would have started putting from 1,000 to 1,500 calves on his grassland.

“I can’t do that now,” he said. “It’s all going to depend on how fast the grass comes back and how quick we can get the fences in.”

Volunteers and crews are now tearing down fence posts and putting up new fencing.

To help those affected by wildfires, Cargill is donating $50,000 in new fencing materials.

According to a news release issued by the company on Tuesday, Cargill’s Wichita-based North American protein business is donating $50,000 in new fencing materials to ranchers in the Ashland area of western Kansas.

Estimates indicate that up to 100,000 miles of ranch fencing was destroyed in Kansas, with additional fencing destroyed in Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma wildfires.

“We know there are a lot of cattle producers that lost herds, buildings, fences and grazing land, and it’s their hard work that helps us produce beef enjoyed by Americans and people around the world,” said Casey Mabry, strategic supply manager in Cargill’s cattle procurement team. “When we contacted the Kansas Livestock Association, they told us what was needed more than anything is fencing materials to rebuild what was lost to fire. We knew time was of the essence and that we needed to help as much as we could, as quickly as possible.”

The company delivered two semi-tractor-trailer loads of fencing materials from a supplier in Chanute on Tuesday.

“In Dodge City, we have a large beef processing facility that employs 2,400 Kansans and harvest cattle from some of the ranchers impacted by last week’s fires,” said Christina Taylor, associate brand manager in Cargill’s beef marketing team.

Additionally, Cargill’s team in Dodge City is providing support to two beef processing plant employees who lost their homes and all of their belongings to nearby wildfires.