SSGA launches wildfire relief fund to help Biggar-area ranchers

Loss of grass and fencing added to already difficult conditions

Grassland wildfire

The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association has launched a relief fund to help Biggar-area ranchers affected by last week’s wildfire.

“We’re collecting whatever people can offer,” said SSGA President Bill Huber. “Losing 22,000 acres of grass is a devastating setback. Cattle will have to be fed, which means ranchers will need feed and transportation. And maybe as much as 75 miles of fence has been destroyed.

“At $5,000 per mile, that’s a very serious situation.”

No farm buildings were lost in the fire, but the loss of grass and fencing are an additional blow to producers who are already struggling with dry conditions. The southern half of Saskatchewan, from Meadow Lake to the US border, is dangerously dry.

“The drought conditions have already caused feed shortages, which means high prices,” Huber said. “The same conditions that caused the shortage are also increasing the fire risk, and making it expensive to buy feed to replace the lost grass. It’s a merciless cycle.”

And trucking in feed is just a short-term fix, Huber said. Ranchers will have to find pastures for summer grazing, and will need help moving their animals.

The fire started Monday, and was finally brought under control by volunteer firefighters on Thursday. High winds contributed to the fire’s spread.

“In times like this, ranchers always help each other out,” Huber said. “We’re asking our members, and everyone who is able to help, to pull together for the people in the ranching community who suffered damage from the wildfire.”

People can contribute by going to the Saskatchewan Stock Growers website or calling the SSGA office at (306) 757-8523. Producers affected by the fire can also call that number to identify what help they need.

Producers do not need to be SSGA members to qualify for assistance.

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