South Dakota blizzard kills 20,000 head of cattle; shutdown leaves ranchers in the cold

October 10, 2013SOUTH DAKOTALike in a scene from an apocalyptic parable, dark carcasses of cows and steers lie motionless in silent clusters across swaths of South Dakota. An early blizzard caught ranchers off guard this week in the state, killing as many as 20,000 head of cattle, a state official says. But ranchers say they are the real victims. The storm left many of them in ruins, and now Washington is leaving them out in the cold. “With the government shutdown and no farm bill in place, we need South Dakotans to help their neighbors,” Gov. Dennis Daugaard said. This year’s federal farm legislation got hung up in Congress before the shutdown. There’s no money to help the ranchers, and Daugaard is asking for donations. South Dakota’s civil air patrol did flyovers to take pictures of whole herds that keeled over together, dotting the gaping, snow-covered flatlands with big, black blotches. Ranchers who thought they were doing the right thing were blindsided, said state veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven. Now they are dazed by their losses. “The smart thing to do this time of year is to have cows and calf off to pasture,” he said. “Then the storm blew in. We’ve never seen anything quite like this.” Oedekoven says he may never know the total number of livestock killed. South Dakota has asked ranchers to make lists of the animals they lost to help with the tally. “It will be two weeks to a month before we have a better idea of the impact,” Oedekoven said. Only 2,000 have been confirmed dead so far, but crews are out removing more dead cattle blocking roads, where they fell over in their tracks. The state has told drivers to watch out. “Motorists must be aware that livestock carcasses or stray livestock may be present on or along the roadways at any time,” the emergency management agency said in a statement. Herds of livestock still alive are wandering aimlessly far from home. “We have misplaced cattle everywhere,” Oedekoven said. “The storm blew them 10 miles or more from where they are normally pastured.” The blizzard didn’t necessarily dole out fate justly, rewarding the prudent and punishing the lax, he said. “Some people were very well prepared and lost 50% of their herd. Some were not prepared and took no losses. There was no rhyme or reason to it. Some ranchers lost everything.” –CNN
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9 Responses to South Dakota blizzard kills 20,000 head of cattle; shutdown leaves ranchers in the cold

  1. If the cows are frozen, why don’t they slaughter them and use them for sale? I would if it were possible. But, I don’t know if you can do that or not. I would find a way for them to not go to waste for sure. Even if I used it myself. God’s judgment is falling because of a lost nation and Government trying to divide Jerusalem now too. He will divide us next!


    • onecowco says:

      They were frozen, then rains came and they thawed out. Also, many were not found for days–you have no idea of the stench of rotting carcasses–it’s something you never forget (although you’d like to)!

      I fear for folks who do not know nor understand how to deal with food: what is edible and what can poison a person. It’s a shame, as we eat everyday and should know even the basics.


  2. Laura Lynn says:

    I’m so sorry to see this destruction, as if our ranchers and farmers haven’t been through enough. I pray for you.


  3. sherayx says:

    Terrible, just terrible.


  4. Steven Cass says:

    South Dakota guy here. It was waaaaaaay more than 20,000. I’ve been hearing 60-75,000. It’s an absolute disaster out there. Highways were closed because of carcasses, and many are still buried under the snow- which is quickly melting. There is, in fact, more rain expected this weekend, which will make the situation that much worse!


  5. Feedscrn says:

    and how many ranchers voted for and obeyed the POTUS? If so, then it’s their own fault. Sorry dudes.


  6. amy says:

    This doesn’t make sense to me. I grew up in western Nebraska and we raised cattle though a lot of bad blizzards. I also worked as a vet tech in South Dakota. This story doesn’t make a lot of sense. I have never heard such a thin


    • Steven Cass says:

      Amy, what happened is this wasn’t a bad blizzard. It was a terrible blizzard. Two inches of rain, followed by three to four feet of snow in some places, all with 60-70 mph winds. Simply put, none of the forecasts called warned it would be that bad, and even if the had most of the cattle were in summer pasture and would not have been able to be moved in time. Also, the cattle don’t yet have their winter coats because it hadn’t even been cold yet. It was just a terrible storm, and a terrible convergence of things.


      • amy says:

        Thanks Steven. That makes a little more sense. How tragic. We had horrific blizzards in the 70’s. But the rain first, no winter coats and summer pasture probably sealed their fate. Tragic. 😦


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