PROVO, Utah (AP) — Utah ranchers are searching for several cattle as the region continues to deal with a growing wildfire.

Lightning sparked a wildfire Aug. 4 in Utah County, leading to 468 missing cattle, the Daily Herald reported .

Andy Neves and the rest of the Lake Fork Cattleman's Association said they were able to gather about 350 cattle initially within the first nine days of the blaze. Neves said about 100 cattle are still missing.

Near Neves' home, rescued cows chew on hay within a corral. Although safe, the cows are crowded and not eating their usual summer diet.

"They're not gaining weight like they would on the mountain," Neves said.

Besides the flames, the hay the cattle have been fed while corralled has been in short supply and very costly. Neves said hay production in some places has been reduced by half or more.

With cows corralled sooner than expected, ranchers are cutting into the hay reserves they had set aside for the winter.

"At this point, we're in survival mode," Neves said. "We're not looking to pad our bank accounts."

Ranchers and the U.S. Forest Service have been working together to come up with plans for the cattle as the fire has burned. Typically, the two groups determine when to rest certain allotments and move cattle elsewhere to keep ecosystems healthy, but the fire has called for re-evaluation.

"The Forest Service has said that they'd let us take 30 percent of our cattle to the Blind Canyon allotment," Neves said. Though it isn't a cure-all solution, Neves remarked that it certainly helps. "The forest service has been working really well with us during this fire, helping us get through it," he said.

The plan is to keep cows on unburned allotments until food and water runs out, rescue cows from partially-burned allotments and move them to unburned allotments and keep cows in place that are currently corralled.

The wildfire has burned about 47 square miles (122 square kilometers) and stood at 80 percent containment, as of the final incident update last Tuesday.


Information from: The Daily Herald,