ELGIN – The severe floods that hit Umatilla County almost a month ago did much more than leave many homeowners with devastating damage to their home and property. It has also put thousands of horses, cattle, sheep and goats at risk of starvation by destroying hay and pastures.
Fortunately, none of these animals have been lost due to the famine and people like Ryan’s and Amanda Tsiatsos’s husband and wife team are doing their best to prevent this from happening.
The couple are among about 50 cattle owners who are donating hay to help livestock in Umatilla county and the southern edge of southeastern Washington. On Sunday, Ryan and Amanda donated 111 bales of hay to Emergency Equipment Solutions. The nonprofit based in Burns, a public safety disaster preparedness and relief organization, is making an effort to get as much hay as possible to Umatilla county farmers and ranchers who need assistance.
The hay donated by the Tsiatsos family weighed around four tons and was worth between $ 600 and $ 800.
“We had extra hay and we could sell it or give it away,” said Ryan Tsiatsos. “We gave it to them because they needed it, it was an easy choice to make.”
Ryan Tsiatsos took about 90 minutes to help emergency equipment solutions load hay onto trailers early Sunday morning before he was immediately taken to Umatilla County. The hay was supplied to some of the 107 livestock owners who informed the EES that they urgently needed hay, fencing or both. To date, 370 tons of hay have been supplied to these farmers. To say that farmers and ranchers are grateful for the assistance they are receiving is an understatement.
“We delivered two tons of hay to a breeder (about a week ago) and it literally broke and cried,” said Valerie O’Dai, senior disaster relief coordinator for emergency equipment solutions.
The donated hay that EES is offering is helping to avoid hunger for over a thousand farm animals. O ‘Dai fear, however, many others are at risk. He explained that many farm animals ran towards higher ground off their owners’ land when the flood hit. Some managed to escape because the flood waters brought down the fences and others were freed by the landowners who opened gates to run their animals safely. Unfortunately, some animals have not returned, so their status is uncertain.
“Many are not justified,” said O’Dai, a Union County resident.
He fears that some, including horses, may suffer from poor nutrition while alone. O’Dai said that horses normally eat 15-20 pounds of hay a day and that the herbs they are eating in its place do not fill a vacuum.
“There are not enough nutrients in the herbs (they are eating),” said Oai.
Some of the farmers and ranchers who received the hay thought they were in good shape in terms of hay stocks in the week following the flood. So much of their hay suddenly became moldy, making it a threat to horses and sheep. O Dai said that mold can quickly kill horses and sheep but it is not as great a threat to cows and goats.
Hay mold emerged as a problem two weeks ago, said O’Dai, when there was a temperature spike in Umatilla County. This sharp rise triggered mold growth in the still wet hay.
Today, 100 tons of hay are needed to make sure livestock owners don’t lose any hunger. O’Dai explained that this amount would bring cattle owners to May when hay will be more abundant after the first cuttings and farmers and ranchers have had enough time to develop alternative means of obtaining hay.
“We want to support them until then,” said Oai.
People who wish to donate hay or funds can contact Emergency Equipment Solutions via email at [email protected] EES also has accounts at Wells Fargo and Bank of Eastern Oregon, where donations can be made. Those who make donations to the accounts at these banks should specify that they want their donations to help flood the Umatilla county.
EES volunteers are helping livestock owners with fencing problems by trying to save the fencing they lost due to the flood. The new fencing is purchased when the old fencing cannot be recovered.
O’Dai supervised and helped organize the hay pickup on Sunday at Grande. Those who also attended the retreat, in addition to Tsiatsoses, were the husband of Valerie O’Dai, Mick, the husband and wife team of Rick and Laurie Harvey of Milton-Freewater and Doug Stratton of La Grande. Stratton said that in a time when society as a whole is often perceived as selfish, the way people come out of the carpentry shop to help those in need when a tragedy like the flooding of the county of Umatilla.
“Prove our humanity. When needed, people respond, “said Stratton.