Tornados that ripped through the Texas Panhandle last weekend spared feedyards and a packing plant, but did plenty of damage to homes and property.

In Cactus, TX, a small town in the northern Texas Panhandle, a tornado that ripped through the area Saturday night missed the Swift packing plant and Cactus Feedyard. But just barely. Strong damage was evident within a few hundred yards of the perimeter of the Swift plant as cleanup got underway early in the week.

According to Swift spokesman Sean McHugh, while the plant itself escaped damage, the storm took out major utilities, such as electricity and water, when it hit Saturday night.

"Electricity to the plant was restored by mid-morning Monday," McHugh told BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly. "That allowed us to do our systems check, and by Tuesday we were up and running."

The fed-cattle market didn't feel the effects of the plant shutdown, according to Jim Gill, market director with the Texas Cattle Feeders Association.

However, just across the highway from the Swift plant, the scene was decidedly worse. The town of Cactus, where many Swift employees live, was hit hard by the twister. McHugh says, to the best of his knowledge, no plant employees were seriously hurt.

"We've seen reports of as many as 180 to 200 homes that were probably damaged either in total or beyond repair. So that's certainly the issue now. But we're working with some of the local folks there to see what we can do in terms of immediate relief efforts and, of course, longer term to see if we can help out to address some of the housing concerns."

Nearby Cactus Feedyard also escaped injury, according to Mark Engler with Cactus Feeders. Through the use of standby generators to run the feedmill and tractor PTOs hooked to water wells, the feedyard was able to feed and care for the cattle until electricity was restored. The feedyard provided manpower and heavy equipment to assist in the town's recovery effort, and a hamburger cooker and meat to help feed the relief workers.

In the southern Texas Panhandle, another twister hit the town of Tulia. Engler said it missed Wrangler Feedyard, a nearby Cactus feedyard, but did considerable damage to homes and businesses in town. There, too, feedyard employees and equipment were used to assist in the recovery.
-- Burt Rutherford