The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association (SSGA) has launched a Wildfire Relief Fund to help farmers and ranchers affected by devastating wildfires this fall.
The most recent fires near Burstall, Leader and Tompkins on Oct. 17 were propelled by strong winds causing the flames to advance quickly across fields and grasslands. Another fire near Glentworth in early September also caused extensive damage.
The president of SSGA, Shane Jahnke, said the October wildfires burned up tens of thousands of acres of land and killed around 750 cattle, with an estimated cost of around one million dollars.
The wildfires also destroyed machines, buildings, fences and yards. In an interview on Gormley Wednesday, Jahnke told 980 CJME’s Murray Wood the association is still getting more and more information from farmers, so the damage totals will continue to climb.
One big impact for farmers is the genetics of the herds that were lost in the fire. Jahnke said cattle producers work their entire lives to perfect their genetics and now some have lost half their herds.
“Cattle producers take great pride in the quality that we raise and they work on those genetics and it’s a totally different story in under 24 hours,” he said.
Jahnke said families impacted by the fires are devastated and that the stress and hardship on these producers are unimaginable.
For the remaining livestock, there’s another issue to deal with, pasture lands. With this summer’s drought and the recent fires, pasture land isn’t where it needs to be in order for producers to feed their animals through the winter. There’s also a lack of hay.
Jahnke said hay is hard to replace and it’s tough to put a value on the damage to pasture lands.
“Us ranchers are good stewards of the land and we take pride in growing grass, you get a fire like that come through and it’s so hit or miss when it comes back especially when we’re in a drought right now, it needs rain so it’s just a horrific ordeal that these guys have went through,” he said.
Hay is just one of the things Jahnke said they are looking for to be donated to the relief fund. Other items the SSGA is collecting are cash, feed, trucking or even fencing. Jahnke said they are open to any kind of donation.
Twenty-four hours after the SSGA started the relief fund, Jahnke said there was well over $100,000 dollars in donations coming from a wide range of people.
One farmer who was hit during the recent wildfires donated $30,000 worth of feed and fencing supplies. There are a number of animal health companies that have been donating feed as well.
“The outpour of support has been unbelievable. This province is one heck of a province, they help out people in need,” Jahnke said.
For producers looking for help and for those wishing to donate can go to the SSGA website or call the SSGA office at 1-306-757-8523.