Ranchers in Utah have been searching for cattle that ran loose during a wildfire for the past month resulting in approximately 350 being found, but 100 head are still lost.
After a lightning strike sparked the Coal Hollow Fire on the northern side of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, roughly 70 miles south of Salt Lake City. The fire has burned nearly 30,000 acres and was at 90% containment on Sept. 4 with some hotspots still burning.
Following the fires start, members of the Lake Fork Cattleman’s Association began looking for 468 cattle that were unaccounted for because of the blaze.
The five ranchers who are part of the association gathered about 350 head within the first nine days of the Coal Hollow Fire igniting. An estimated 100 head are still on the mountain grazing allotments, unable to be gathered.
Cows that have been rescued so far are back on their home ranches. Rancher Andy Neves has been feeding his cattle hay, but it hasn’t helped much compared to the summer grazing that’s been lost.
“They’re not gaining weight like they would on the mountain,” Neves says.
The association rotates cattle onto five grazing allotments within the Spanish Fork Canyon and has grazing rights from June to October.
The central area of Utah where the fire is burning has been going through drought for much of the year. The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that it classified as exceptional drought, the worst rating on the index.
A map showing the path of the Coal Hollow Fire.
“It’s huge; it’s devastating actually,” Neves says. “The only way we can make this work and profitable for ourselves is through that summer grazing time.”
With ranchers eating into already short hay supplies it could lead to a more difficult winter.
“At this point, we’re in survival mode,” Neves says. “We’re not looking to pad our bank accounts.”
The U.S. Forest Service and ranchers are working on a grazing plan. Right now the Forest Service has said that 30% of the cattle can be moved to the Blind Canyon allotment.
“The Forest Service has been working really well with us during this fire, helping us get through it,” Neves says.
There is no clear number on death losses at this point. However, the Manti-La Sal National Forest has reported that four cows and two calves have died. Neves believes up to 25% of his own cattle could have perished.
More information about how the Lake Fork Cattleman’s Association has been dealing with fire can be found on the Daily Herald website.