The Star newspaper followed one rancher’s plight after the big fire destroyed much of his pastureland last year.
Jim and Michelle Hemmer have managed to find enough hay for winter feed for their 400 head of livestock.
Jim said last week that they have trimmed their herd of 500 cattle down to less than 400 and spent countless hours finding winter hay and repairing fence, all because of the fire,
Hemmer would be the first to tell you that many ranchers up in the Delrio flats suffered as much loss as he did, if not more.
But it has been a struggle.
Hay has reached outlandish prices of $200-$250 a ton, if you can find it, he said. Frequently, semis loaded with hay are seen going through the area trying to satisfy the demand of area ranchers.
“Our neighbors got some hay last Thursday,” Hemmer noted.
It takes about two tons of good hay per cow to carry them over the winter. And winter in Delrio now includes a near foot of snow and weather in the single digits. It was 4 degrees above zero last Thursday morning on the Hemmer ranch.
Initially, the Hemmers found some temporary pasture for some of their herd, but all are back close to the ranch. They feed at several locations.
Hemmer also feeds wheat straw, blended with better hay.
“We have tried to find grass hay, but you can’t find any,” he said.
In addition to the loss of pastureland during the fall months, ranchers lost cattle and fencing.
The Hemmers lost a ton of corner fencing (wood posts) and have been busy replacing those. Most of the fencing is on steel posts. The Hemmers have even hired help to put in corner posts and re-stretch the wire.
And you can add to those losses, some 17 head of cattle. Right after the fire, Jim found seven cows dead. Another 10 are missing and presumed to have died someplace.
There’s a great sense of community among ranchers in the area, always mindful to help one another.
“You just work a little harder to fix the problems,” Jim stated.
At least for now, the Hemmers, and others, are going into winter fairly well on top of their chores, so to speak.
Lost pastureland has essentially been wiped out for this spring and summer, but will “be in good shape the following year,” Hemmer asserts.