Massive Wildfire Burns Near Major Dairy Region in Texas

Massive Wildfire Burns Near Major Dairy Region in Texas

From Texas A & M Forest Service Via X (formerly Twitter), 2.28.24, 8:14AM

The second largest wildfire in Texas’ history, named the Smokehouse Creek Fire, is raging in the Panhandle, in Hutchinson, Hemphill, and Roberts counties, north and west of Amarillo. At least 500,000 acres are impacted, and as of this writing, none of it is contained. Since it began on Monday, the fire has more than doubled in size, attributable to unseasonably warm temperatures and dry conditions, with similar wildfire challenges being faced in other parts of the globe, including Brazil, Venezuela, and Bolivia. Governor Abbott has declared a state of emergency in 60 counties in Texas, while other ongoing fires in the region, though smaller, have been at least partially contained. Power outages have been reported and a nuclear weapons facility has been closed.

With numerous dairies located to the north and west, the fires are a significant concern, especially considering the forecast from the Texas A&M Forest Service, which indicates a very high risk of the fires spreading to the dairy-centric Northwestern part of the region by Friday. While there are few dairies in the three-county area according to the Texas Association of Dairymen, the largest dairies are just west. Moore County, which shares Hutchinson’s western border, boasts nearly 47,000 cows and produces 1.281 billion pounds of milk, while Hartley County, bordering Moore County to the east and New Mexico to the west, sustains over 103,000 cows, yielding 2.832 billion pounds of milk. In the event of the fires spreading, there could be a substantial impact on the dairy industry in the Lone Star state.

Already, ranchers in Texas are feeling the impact of the situation, as videos and images depicting cows fleeing and burning ranches circulate on social media. The beef cow herd, as reported by the USDA as of January 1, is currently at its lowest point since 1961, and any loss of life will only intensify competition for dairy and beef, potentially maintaining cow numbers at multi-year lows and driving beef prices higher. Additionally, there’s concern that power outages, stemming from the wildfires, could extend beyond the affected areas and affect a larger portion of the electrical grid, potentially disrupting operations for dairies in the region.

HighGround expresses its deepest sympathies and solidarity with the families, ranches, and dairies affected by these devastating wildfires.