When the news hit about wildfires affecting ranches in Colorado, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, Iowans began contacting others, coordinating efforts to contribute hay, feed, fencing supplies and monetary donations to those who were affected.
"I can’t even imagine what they’re going through," said Monroe County Farm Bureau member and cattle raiser Bryan Reed. "It took these farmers and ranchers generations to build the farm and their herds, and one afternoon to destroy it all. Some people were only left with the pickup truck they drove away in."
Reed was a part of an effort to collect funds for fencing supplies, which were shipped last weekend to Ashland, Kansas. He worked with local farm supply stores to get fencing materials at greatly reduced prices. As of last week, $8,000 had been gathered from the Monroe County Farm Bureau, the county cattlemen’s group and others to purchase supplies. The Cardinal FFA Chapter from Eldon has also donated supplies, which were added to the delivery to Ashland.
"In the big picture, this isn’t going to make much of a difference compared to the loss they’ve truly had, but anything is more than nothing," Reed said.
He said contacts in Ashland identified fencing supplies as their greatest need. Reed said another shipment to Kansas could be arranged if there was more interest in donating to the cause.
For Jon Schaben, co-owner of the Dunlap Livestock Auction, it only made sense to help fellow cattlemen in the way he knew how: by hosting an auction.
The auction donated a 750-pound steer to be used in a rollover auction recently. In the auction, the steer was sold, then the buyers donated the steer back to be auctioned off again. In the 15-minute auction, buyers donated $45,000. Since then, others from Illinois and elsewhere have sent checks.
"The response was phenomenal," Schaben said. The funds will be dispersed to cattlemen’s organizations in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
"All of us pride ourselves in being able to care for our livestock. In the affected areas, they were dealt a hand that made it impossible for them to do that," Schaben said.
Clinton County Farm Bureau member Dustin Johnson had some extra hay he had stockpiled from a good hay crop in 2016, so he put it to good use. In coordination with local farmers and truck drivers, more than 40,000 pounds of hay was hauled to Kansas.
"To lose a bunch of your animals and all the feed for them would be a very stressful and tough situation to go though. We had a little extra hay from last year because we had such a good year of hay production, so we thought it was a good way to help out," Johnson said.
Reading about the devastation prompted Russ Seekins, a cattle raiser in Hudson, to find a way to help. Last week, he and four other area farmers were on their way to Buffalo, Oklahoma, with loads of hay from Black Hawk County. The use of the trucks and trailers was donated, and others pitched in to pay for fuel costs.
"It’s a horrible situation for them, but what good does it do to sit and feel sorry if we’ve got time and resources to pull together. We’re all neighbors — whether next door neighbors or neighbors you’ve never met 700 miles away, so we wanted to help," Seekins said.
The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association (ICA) will be hosting an online auction with proceeds going to benefit farmers and ranchers affected by the wildfires.
Mike Cline, president of the ICA and a cow-calf producer in Elgin, said the online auction is just one way the organization can support fellow cattle raisers in the areas hit by the devastating wildfires.
"We need to rally around them and help each other at times like this," Cline said. "There’s no way to prepare disasters like this, so we need to be responsive at the highest level we possibly can."
Grundy County Farm Bureau member Justin Graves says he can’t imagine what producers are dealing with in the affected areas.
"We’re in the seedstock business; I don’t know what I would do if I had to start over. It blows my mind," he said.
Graves and Allyson Dinsdale have organized a benefit dinner for April 15 at the Grundy Center Community Center. The proceeds from the dinner, raffle drawing and auction will go to those affected by the wildfires. For more information about the benefit dinner in Grundy Center, including ways to donate items for the auction, call Graves at 319-231-7543.
To donate to the Monroe County Farm Bureau’s efforts, call Reed at 641-777-4010.
For more information about the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association auction, go to http://bit.ly/2nisdox or call 515-296-2266.