According to South Dakota's state veterinarian there are around 100,000 cattle dead after a blizzard swept South Dakota over the weekend. FOX News now reported the most ranchers in the state lost anywhere between 50 to 75 percent of their herds, according to Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, which represents 1,500 ranching operations.
“We’re certainly looking at tens of thousands if not pushing 100,000 at this point,” she said of the dead livestock.
The bizarre weather started by dumping two inches of rain late Thursday evening until Friday and quickly turned into snow. Rapid City has recorded 19 in. of snow that fell on Friday alone according to the report.
The snow storm also known as Atlas was the worst ever to hit South Dakota and surprises the many ranchers at this early part of the year. At this time cows are pastured few miles away from their owner’s ranch farm.
Due to the accumulation of heavy, wet snow and wind, it took two days to travel the 25 miles from their house to the pasture where our cattle are located.
Cows survival instinct usually hunkers down but cluster carcasses of cows and even horses were splattered motionless across the vast plains after the storm hit.
Beefmagazine.com reported that it’s been estimated that 5-10% of cattle in western South Dakota have been killed by the storm, although some are reporting losses as high as a devastating 20%.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard was quoted CNN, "With the government shutdown and no farm bill in place, we need South Dakotans to help their neighbors,". With no money to help the ranchers, Daugaard is asking for donations as federal farm legislation got stuck up in Congress before the shutdown.
As of press time, South Dakota Department of Agriculture didn’t have accurate estimates of total death loss since due to snow it will take large vehicles like tractors to reach to the pastures. Some folks are racing against time to dispose the dead carcasses before they rot and could pause health hazard.
A Facebook page being set for ranchers relief and blizzard updates, sharing photos, stories and even an auction to support the ranchers impacted. One rancher reported a loss of 347 of 400 weaned calves. Another rancher has only been able to locate 23 of 900 head of cattle. One rancher from Faith, SD, reported a loss of 71 cows and 115 calves. More numbers will be added as we receive reports.
This blizzard is being compared to the snow storm that swept through the Dakota’s, Montana and Wyoming in 1886-1887. During that storm, the giant British-owned Swan Land & Cattle Company, LLC, headquartered in Chugwater and Cheyenne, Wyoming lost 50% of their calves and up to 15-20% of their entire stock, according to American Cowboy blog post.