Orphan Calf Relief Program fostering calves affected by wildfires       

The wildfires that turned the Texas Panhandle and parts of Oklahoma to ashes several weeks ago also left many injured and orphaned calves in its wake. An organization called the Orphan Calf Relief Program is stepping up to provide free care for these calves that have either lost their mothers or suffered extreme injuries and need specialized medical care.

The OCRP was established by Erin Boggs of Meade, Kansas, in 2017 when the Starbuck Fire scorched the Kansas and Oklahoma Plains. Jessica Reed, of Beaver, Oklahoma, took up the reins as the OCRP program manager when the Smokehouse Creek Fires blazed their way across the Texas and Oklahoma in February.

Lynnetta Stout bottle feeds a calf orphaned during the wildfires. (Photo courtesy Jessica Reed.)

“In 2017, during the Starbuck Fires, I worked at the Clark County FSA office,” Reed said. “I got to see the impact this makes on ranchers first hand and I went through some of the processes with them. I also watched Erin have such a successful calf relief program that gave hope to ranchers. Being able to give them a piece of their calf crop back after so much devastation is truly an amazing thing.”

Caring for the calves

Reed said the OCRP is open to anyone in Texas or Oklahoma affected by the wildfires. The program is 100% free of charge; all feed and medical supplies are donated and calves will be returned to their owners as soon as they are ready to care for them. Reed said in the past calves have been fostered as long as six months.

“We want to be a resource for ranchers and take care of their babies while they are rebuilding,” Reed said. “Whenever they are ready we will give their babies back. This program is 100% free due to the wonderful people that make donations. We take care of transport and supplies as well as any vet care that might need to be handled and we return the calves free of charge.”

The program currently has about 50 calves under its care with 12 foster families feeding and doctoring the babies. Of the 50 calves, six are at Reed’s family cow-calf operation, known as the Stout Ranch, near Beaver, where they are receiving critical care. Reed’s mother, Lynnetta Stout, who is a nurse practitioner, volunteered to operate the “calf ICU” on the ranch. These calves have burns from head to toe.

Glenn Whitley and Lynnetta Stout provide medical care for an orphaned calf. (Photo courtesy Jessica Reed.)

Reed said the injures vary from calf to calf depending on where they were located and how close they came to the flames. Some only have burns on their noses and ears, while others are burned between their legs or have damaged hooves. Reed credited her mother, father and husband for helping her keep the program successful. She hopes caring for these orphaned calves can provide some relief to those affected by the fires and that these calves can be a small piece in rebuilding their herds in the long-term.

 “We live in a part of the world that it could anyone of us next,” Reed said. “My family got very lucky during the Beaver River Fires two years ago. We were very close to losing a herd of cattle. Helping out is just what this community does and we’ve seen it time and time again through people hauling hay from across the country to people supporting us monetarily even if they don’t live in a rural community.”

To donate financially, the OCRP accepts Venmo or PayPal donations. There is also a bank account at the First Security Bank in Beaver where patrons can transfer funds. To provide financial assistance for supplies, the program has an account set up at Beaver Feed. Supply donations can be dropped off at the Beaver County Stockyards or Radcliff Family Eyecare in Liberal, Kansas. Supply needs include: milk replacer, bottles, nipples, small buckets, bottle holders, burn cream, vet wrap, starter feed, bedding, syringes, needles, electrolytes and tubing kits. Volunteers interested in fostering calves or ranchers with calves in need of care, should contact Reed directly at 620-629-0439 or through the OCRP’s Facebook page.

Lacey Vilhauer can be reached at 620-227-1871 or [email protected].