Ranchers answer the call to move herd of cattle in path of Lytton Creek wildfire | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Ranchers answer the call to move herd of cattle in path of Lytton Creek wildfire

A safety meeting at Bar FX Ranch in Merritt before community ranchers head out to herd cattle under threat by Lytton Wildfire.
Image Credit: Rhonda MacDonald
July 31, 2021 - 6:00 AM

Over a hundred cows are being herded off their rangeland early this year due to the threat of wildfire by a team of volunteer ranchers.

They're racing against the Lytton Creek wildfire which is moving closer to the summer grazing land, 100,000 acres set in the hills between Merritt and Spences Bridge. They're not all safely home yet, hampered by smoke, rough terrain and logging equipment as a community of ranchers have been working long days for over a week in an attempt bring the herd home.

Bar FX Ranch owner Rhonda MacDonald said her cows are not used to being brought home at this time of the year and they are agitated.

“The cows are stressed out right now because they are not used to coming home this time of year,” she said. “Their grazing land is heavily bushed and steep in lots of places with little access. The smoke is very thick and the cattle know there is something wrong. There is noisy logging equipment working in places putting in a fire guard.”

MacDonald said she guesses one third of the herd are still out roaming.

“We have been up there for five days in a row and we can’t always get them down but we are moving them down a little farther every day,” she said. “The ones at home are in a green irrigated field.”

MacDonald said she didn’t think the fire would affect her cows at first, but the extreme conditions, lack of rain and extreme heat has removed moisture from the land and vegetation. Two weeks ago, she was advised by authorities to get her cattle off the hill. She turned to the ranching community for support.

“I put the call out on social media for help,” MacDonald recalled. “One day we had thirty riders show up to help. We got over half the herd off the hill that day. The ranching community comes together. Some helpers started as strangers and are now lifelong friends.”

MacDonald said the trouble is not over yet. The grass in the field at home will not last forever, and there is still a chance the wildfire could make it to the ranch. She said she may have to send the cattle to Kamloops or further north for grass.

“We are just on autopilot at this point,” she said. “We are tired but there is no time for crying in ranching, we are just focussed on getting the job done right now.”

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