Historic Blizzard Kills 75,000 Cattle In South Dakota

Rapid City and many other parts of South Dakota recorded record snowfall totals for the entire month of October in just three days over the weekend.

Shutdown worsens historic blizzard that killed tens of thousands of South Dakota cattle (NBC News, Oct 9, 2013):

An unusually early and enormous snowstorm over the weekend caught South Dakota ranchers and farmers unprepared, killing tens of thousands of cattle and ravaging the state’s $7 billion industry — an industry left without assistance because of the federal government shutdown.

As many as 75,000 cattle have perished since the storm slammed the western part of the state Thursday through Saturday with snowfall that set records for the entire month of October in just three days, state and industry officials said.

Across the state, snow totals averaged 30 inches, with some isolated areas recording almost 5 feet, The Weather Channel reported.

The South Dakota Stock Growers Association estimated that 15 percent to 20 percent of all cattle were killed in some parts of the state. Some ranchers reported that they lost half or more of their herds.

The storm was accompanied by hurricane-force wind gusts, especially Friday night, which drove some herds seeking shelter miles from their ranches. A trail of carcasses left a gruesome sight, said Martha Wierzbicki, emergency management director for Butte County, in the northwestern corner of the state.

Parts of South Dakota are in cleanup mode after a strong winter storm pounded some areas. Kirsten Swanson of NBC station KNBN reports.

“They’re in the fence line, laying alongside the roads,” Wierzbicki told The Rapid City Journal. “It’s really sickening.”

Ranchers have no one to ask for help or reimbursement. That’s because Congress has yet to pass a new farm bill, which subsidizes agricultural producers.

And even if there were a farm bill, the government shutdown means nothing could be done under one anyway.

State Agriculture Secretary Lucas Lentsch called the early-season blizzard “devastating to our producers,” saying his agency was trying to figure out a response.

In the meantime, he said, the best farmers and ranchers can do is meticulously document their losses, with detailed photos, for use when and if claims can be processed.

The most immediate concern is proper disposal of the dead livestock, which state law says must be burned, buried or rendered within 36 hours — for the health not only of surviving herds but also for people.

“That can be a significant source of disease spread, so we want to make sure those carcasses are burned, buried or rendered as quickly as possible,” Dustin Oedekoven, South Dakota’s state veterinarian, told the Journal.

But the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association warned that the effects would be felt for years afterward. Not only were tens of thousands of calves killed, but so were thousands more cows that would have delivered calves next year.

And the stress of the storm will leave its mark on surviving herds, the South Dakota State University Agricultural Extension Service said, leaving the remaining cattle vulnerable to ruinous diseases with names like infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, bovine respiratory syncytial virus and bovine viral diarrhea virus.

Most of the diseases have incubation periods of a week or two, so those problems can’t yet be assessed, the extension said.

“This is absolutely, totally devastating,” Steve Schell, a rancher in Caputa, near Mount Rushmore, told the Rapid City newspaper. “This is horrendous. I mean the death loss of these cows in this county is unbelievable.”

7 thoughts on “Historic Blizzard Kills 75,000 Cattle In South Dakota”

  1. This has happened before, in October of 1880- April of 1881. That whole region went through seven months of nearly continuous blizzards. The trains could not get to the towns, nobody could get in or out. It was a very hard year, people died. They had to slaughter their livestock to stay alive……it has happened before.
    Cattle outside in the October 1880 blizzard were smothered by their breath freezing in the cold air……literally smothered by their own breath…that is how cold it got.
    I am amazed this area doesn’t know by now. My paternal grandparents came from the Dakotas….they had storm cellars and barns for their livestock because of the weather conditions. Now, I read they don’t build storm cellars any more…..how stupid can you get?

  2. Whining about government services being closed down isn’t all of it. If these clowns took decent care of the cattle, they would not have died. They would have had insulated barns for them, with enough room for them to live inside comfortably. Instead, they treat them horribly…..and I hope they don’t get a cent.

  3. NBC “news”: “an industry left without assistance because of the federal government shutdown.” – translation: “Republicans killed 75,000cows”.

    Very predictable clowns .. Their colleagues in CCCP/USSR always blamed similar problems on … “American Imperialism”…

    Where’s that “global warming”??

  4. Marilyn it might simply be that they can’t afford barns anymore. This sistem perpetuates monetary slavery and you need to increase your production all the time to stay in.

    On the other hand I might just be wrong and they are all a bunch of greedy bastards themselves.

  5. In reply to Matej: If they cannot afford barns to give adequate shelter to these animals, they have no business having them in the first place. If you have a business, in order to succeed, you need to maintain your inventory in decent surroundings. There is no excuse for this except the usual short-sighted greed that seems to rule too many people.
    There have been many articles about how these greedy clowns crowd them in so closely they cannot even move.
    Sorry, I have no sympathy for them.

  6. U people are really removed from the real world! The people you are referring to are one of the most hard working, God fearing, honest people in this great nation! They treat their livestock as if they were their own children. Sitting up with them all night when calving season is and working a 16 hr shift during the day to make sure they have enough food to eat,repairing fences, tending to baby calves that get a cold. These cattle run in pastures that are hundreds to thousands of acres in size. They have beautiful living conditions. Than along comes a freak at of nature and slaps everyone in the face and u want to blame it on them?? Shame on u ! Just remember the next time you go out to eat or buy groceries who the people are that feed you.


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