Ranchers and veterinarians will continue to determine the damage and clean up the mess for months to come after the wildfires that engulfed farms and ranches earlier this month. A young 4-H group in Meade County, Kan. is helping in their own unique way.
Charred remains in Clark County, Kan. are a dark reminder that recovery for these communities is far from over.
“He’s singed all over,” said Dr. Randall Spare, veterinarian at Ashland Veterinary Center in Ashland, Kan. “Can you imagine that?”
Some baby calves are now orphaned. Some died because their mothers were no longer able to take care of them because of their own injuries from the fire.
“This was all that was left, four calves and four mature heifers that didn’t pair up with anything in this herd,” said Spare.
Dr. Spare is spending his time evaluating eyes, noses and hooves of cattle, trying to nurse them back to health.
“This calf was burned on the nose—his ears are singed, these ears are singed,” said Dr. Spare
Not all orphans are abandoned. Thanks to the help from the neighboring county and the Four Leaf Clovers 4-H Club, these orphans are finding temporary homes.
Farmers of all ages, even some ‘retired’ from 4-H, are taking in abandoned bucket calves from the counties affected, bringing them home, putting on a bottle and nursing them back to health.
“It takes a lot of time to care for a bucket calf and they don’t have that,” Erin Boggs, a 4-H mom. “I feel bad for them. I think they have cows and nothing to bring them back to.”
So far the group has taken in roughly 90 calves. That number is still rising even days after the fire.
While some are healthy, others are in worse condition.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Rachelle Schlochtermeier. “We had to send two off last night we were determined we were going to save.”
It’s love and concern that isn’t short term.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we have some of these calves and if they are not placed with us August into the fall,” said Schlochtermeier.
It’s not about putting in the time or even taking care of animals—it’s about teaching these young Kansans a lesson about life.
“It teaches you to take care of your stuff and have responsibilities,” said Degnan Boggs, a 4-H member from Meade. “When you have kids and stuff, you can show them and have them care about responsibilities.”
“I want to show my kids you need to help people when they need it,” said Erin Boggs. “No matter how much time you don’t have before it happened.”
It’s the help they’re giving ranchers and veterinarians in the county that’s so valuable while they continue to work.
“There’s a lot of compassion in the state—it’s brought us together,” said Schlochtermeier.
Many have donated milk replacer, electrolytes, bedding, bottles and other supplies to the group. Many ranchers are letting the kids keep the calves until after the fair to show them as well.