A record-breaking storm that dumped 4 feet of snow in parts of western South Dakota cost the state nearly 5% of its cattle, with losses for individual ranchers estimated to be anywhere from 20%-50% according to Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association.
“The storm killed calves that were due to be sold soon, as well as cows that would produce next year,” she said.
Gary Cammack, 60, who owns a spread near Union Center (40 miles northeast of the Black Hills) reported losing approximately 70 cows and calves, although, he and many others haven’t been able to get an accurate count yet because of snowdrifts and broken fences which allowed animals to wander off their ranches and wander for miles.
In addition, “Some of the animals might be flat buried in a snow bank somewhere,” noted Shane Kolb of Meadow, SD, who luckily only lost one cow.
Cammack also added that the cows had been “soaked by 12 hours of rain early in the storm, so many were unable to survive an additional 48 of snow and winds up to 60 mph.”
Making things even worse is the fact that a government disaster program to assist ranchers recover from livestock losses has expired, meaning that they won’t be able to get federal relief until Congress passes a new farm bill.
In the meantime, more than 22,000 homes and businesses in western South Dakota remained without power, as well residents in parts of Colorado and Wyoming also buried by the snowstorm, which spawned killer tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa.