devastating situation for ranchers in South Dakota. As a farm boy at heart, my heart breaks for these ranchers. Read in another article that as fence lines were buried under drifts, cattle were able to walk right over the fences in search of shelter.
As noted below, there was nothing ranchers could do to protect their herds as cattle are still out in summer pastures.
More inside the link.
Tens of thousands of cattle lie dead across South Dakota on Monday following a blizzard that could become one of the most costly in the history of the state’s agriculture industry.
As state officials spent the day calculating the multi-million dollar impact to the regional economy from Friday’s storm, ranchers began digging up hundreds of cattle that are still buried beneath feet of snow.
“This is absolutely, totally devastating,” said Steve Schell, a 52-year-old rancher from Caputa. “This is horrendous. I mean the death loss of these cows in this country is unbelievable.”
Schell said he estimated he had lost half of his herd, but it could be far more. He was still struggling to find snow-buried cattle and those that had been pushed miles by winds that gusted at 70 miles per hour on Friday night.
Martha Wierzbicki, emergency management director for Butte County, said the trail of carcasses was a gruesome sight across the region.
“They’re in the fence line, laying alongside the roads,” she said. “It’s really sickening.”
Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, said most ranchers she had spoken to were reporting that 20 to 50 percent of their herds had been killed.
“I have never heard of anything like it,” she said. “And none of the ranchers I have talked to can remember anything like it.”
While South Dakota ranchers are no strangers to blizzards, what made Friday’s storm so damaging was how early it arrived in the season.
Christen said cattle hadn’t yet grown their winter coats to insulate them from freezing wind and snow.
In addition, Christen said, during the cold months, ranchers tend to move their cattle to pastures that have more trees and gullies to protect them from storms. Because Friday’s storm arrived so early in the year, most ranchers were still grazing their herds on summer pasture, which tend to be more exposed and located farther away from ranch homes.