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BI helps get cattle out of the fire zone

Community: News Roundup from the October 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health has purchased a portable cattle handling system to help ranchers affected by the ongoing wildfires in British Columbia’s interior.

The equipment includes a tub and chute on wheels and freestanding range panels, six feet high and 24 feet long, heavy enough to handle range cattle, says Maury Grant, Boehringer Ingelheim’s rep in British Columbia. He and Miles Crandall, the company’s producer liaison at Ponoka, Alta., got the ball rolling on this project as a way to help ranchers gather their cattle for processing or shipping this fall and thank TEAM Auctions for also helping out with the venture.

“This is a stop-gap measure to give ranchers time to rebuild proper facilities,” says Grant, who is working with ranchers to co-ordinate moves from ranch to ranch. There’s no cost to borrow the system other than moving it on to the next place.

At the end of August, the system was in use for the first time at the Chilco Ranch near Hanceville, west of Williams Lake.

The Williams Lake and Clinton areas have been the hardest hit, Grant says, but there’s no telling how many ranches and cattle have been or will be affected because wildfires are still burning.

As of September 2, the B.C. government reported 161 fires burning in the province. Since the April 1 start to this year’s fire season, 1,189 fires have burned across nearly 1.1 million hectares, or 11,000 square kilometres.

Many “fires of note” (those that threaten public safety or are highly visible) since early July have been in prime cattle country throughout the Cariboo (Williams Lake region) and Kamloops region and lately in the southeast district.

Grant says some ranches have been hit more than once when the initial fire blazed through so fast that it left fuel behind to feed a turnaround burn. Barns and corrals were the first to go up in flames because all the effort had to go into saving homes. Some producers eventually lost everything.

“The reality of all that’s been lost is really just settling in as ranchers get out on the range to further assess damages,” Grant adds. Fences and pens taken for granted because they’ve been there for generations were quite adequate with repairs made as needed. Now they have to be replaced.

Grass is gone for the season due to continuing hot, dry conditions and some ranchers have been feeding their winter hay supplies. Some have lost stackyards, too.

There’s no telling when people will get a clear breath of relief because of dry thunderstorms with lightning strikes that ignite new fires. These fires can get into roots and peaty areas to smolder underground only to flare up miles away or again next spring.

If the Fort McMurray, Alta. wildfire is any indication, it could be a year or more before some of the B.C. wildfires can be officially declared dead. That fire started May 1, 2016, burning nearly 6,000 square kilometres and was deemed extinguished on August 2 this year. Wildfires are officially out when heat coming from the ground is no longer detected.

For questions about how to book the handling system call Maury Grant at 250-307-0849.

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