Wildfires are raging across central Texas, compounding drought that has caused $5.2 billion in agricultural losses and led ranchers in the largest cattle-producing US state to rush to slaughter.

At the weekend, Texas Forest Service responded to 63 new fires, many fanned by winds from tropical storm Lee. Texas has been in drought for a year, with more than 3.6 million acres burnt in wildfires since the fire season began in November. A record number of 38 consecutive days has dried grass and hay, leaving ranchers with no choice but to sell cows for slaughter.

Weekly auctions that usually sell 1,500 cows at this time of year are attracting 5,000 and even turning away potential sellers, underlining the cost of severe weather that Texas A&M University estimates has brought $5.2 billion losses.

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