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Panhandle Wildfire Ag Losses Surpass $123 Million, Costliest in State History

06 May 2024

The aftermath of the Texas Panhandle wildfires has left a staggering economic toll, with preliminary agricultural losses estimated at over $123 million, according to projections by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economists. This makes it the most financially devastating wildfire event on record for the state.

The wildfires, which ravaged more than 1.2 million acres starting on Feb. 26, stand as the largest wildfire outbreak in Texas history. The extensive losses include over 12,000 cattle deaths, along with damages to fences, lost grazing values, and necessary fence repair costs, as outlined by economists. The preliminary estimates encompass the period from February through the middle of March.

“AgriLife Extension continues to be committed in providing resources needed for landowners, livestock producers and individuals impacted from this historic wildfire,” said Rick Avery, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension director. “The recovery process will be ongoing and AgriLife Extension agents and specialists will continue to provide support. We appreciate the ongoing efforts of our dedicated agent network and industry partners.”

Loss Categories Breakdown

The breakdown of estimated losses compiled by AgriLife Extension economists includes:

  • $68.7 million for ranch infrastructure damages, encompassing losses to fences, barns, corrals, well pump motors, windmills, and stocks of hay or feed.
  • $26 million for lost long-term grazing in fire-damaged pastures and range, as well as short-term emergency feeding.
  • $27 million for cattle losses attributable to the wildfires, covering both cows and estimated losses to the season’s calf crop. An additional $1 million is designated for miscellaneous expenses, including disposal costs for deceased animals and forced marketing losses.

Continued Impact and Response Efforts

“These loss estimates are likely to continue to grow as more details emerge as the wildfire risks remain high this spring,” said David Anderson, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension livestock marketing economist, Bryan-College Station.

While recent record-high cattle prices may mitigate immediate market impacts from the wildfires, considerable fencing costs are anticipated in the aftermath.

“What we will see is a significant increase in replacement costs for fencing due to the increase in materials cost,” said DeDe Jones, AgriLife Extension risk management specialist in Amarillo. “Fence rebuilding costs are in the range of $3 per foot to $4 per foot depending on the type of fencing and the type of country.”

AgriLife Extension's Disaster Assessment and Recovery (DAR) agents have been actively engaged since February 28, providing crucial support at Animal Supply Points in Pampa, Borger, Canadian, and a satellite location in Miami. These supply points continue to operate, ensuring that essential resources such as hay and livestock feed reach ranchers in need.

“Our DAR agents as well as our county agent network have been working to distribute hundreds of round bales of hay, livestock feed and to assist with field assessments and identification of cattle,” said Monty Dozier, Ph.D., DAR program director, Bryan-College Station. “Our agents have been working tirelessly to make sure needs are fulfilled. We also want to thank those throughout Texas and out of state who have donated. Their support has been overwhelming.”


Farmers Hot Line is part of the Catalyst Communications Network publication family.