South Dakota Ranchers Still Need Help After Devastating Blizzard Kills Thousands of Cattle and Livestock

October 29th, 2013 12:40 PM | No Comments
Cattle lie frozen along Highway 34 east of Sturgis, S.D. (AP/Rapid City Journal, Kristina Barker)

Cattle lie frozen along Highway 34 east of Sturgis, S.D. (AP/Rapid City Journal, Kristina Barker)

October 4-7, an early blizzard called “Atlas” took the lives of thousands of cattle and other livestock in South Dakota. The total number hasn’t been reported, as more and more carcasses are found. Haven’t heard much about it? That’s because the media hasn’t done much coverage. An early blizzard took the state unaware, after temperatures had been in the 70′s and 80′s. Almost three feet of snow fell in parts of the Black Hills and western part of the state. At least four human deaths have been attributed to the storm.

While the animals can normally withstand snow, none of them had their winter hair that was necessary to keep them snug and dry. The cattle had been soaked by rain that fell for about 12 hours, and then two days of snow and wind meant not much chance for survival. The animals bedded down in low laying areas, looking to get out of the wind, where the animals became stuck in mud and had feet of snow dumped on them, freezing the animals to death. Some farmers only lost one cow, others lost 20-50% of their herds, and a few were wiped out. “Just devastating” seems to be the only way that this storm can be described.

It can take up to 30 years to establish the kind of genetics and bloodlines that farmers like to see in their cattle, and what is selling on the market. Some ranches are expected to not be able to recover. Some farmers predict it will take 15-20 years to reestablish their herd.

A week ago, the USDA announced that South Dakota ranchers can apply for limited help in removing carcasses and repairing damaged property, but the lack of a farm bill means most other aid programs still can’t give relief. Government in Rapid City, SD have called upon Congress to re-authorize the farm bill, which gives farmers assistance during natural disasters such as this. The bill expired October 1, and there has been no relief measures appropriated.

Other relief programs have been put into place to try to help farms. Give Black Hills group is heading up a relief fund and the Atlas Blizzard Ranch Relief and Aid group is also doing some fundraising. To donate to Give Black Hills, click here

The Atlas Blizzard Ranch Relief and Aid group will be hosting an auction on November 2, the proceeds of which will go to the Ranch Relief group. Click here to view their website and Facebook page to view all items to be auctioned. To donate directly to the Ranch Relief fund, click here. 

United Vet Equine is helping the fundraising effort and will donate 10% of any order through the end of October for the refief fund.

 There is also a program set up accepting live cattle donated for farmers to help replenish their herd. Visit this website for more information.

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