South Dakota ranchers reeling from cattle losses

2013-10-13T20:00:00Z South Dakota ranchers reeling from cattle lossesThe Associated Press The Associated Press
October 13, 2013 8:00 pm  • 

SIOUX FALLS | Western South Dakota ranchers are reeling from the loss of tens of thousands of cattle in last weekend's blizzard, and many will dispose of carcasses in pits set to open Monday.

Rancher Heath Ferguson said the storm killed 96 percent of his herd of 100 black Angus and Limousin cattle, a hit worth about $250,000. He said total losses topped more than 1,000 head, as six other herds were roaming the family's 16,000 acres east of Sturgis.

Up to 4 feet of snow fell in the Black Hills area last weekend. Reports of 20 or more inches of snow were common, and 21½ inches in Rapid City were a record for both a 24-hour period in October and the entire month. At least two deaths were attributed to the storm, and it took a particularly heavy toll on livestock.

Ferguson said the vast majority of ranchers don't have insurance covering storm-related damage.

"It's cost-prohibitive for a producer," he said Sunday in an interview with The Associated Press. "Unless you're a really big operator, you can't afford to pay for the insurance."

Cattle ranchers dealing with weather-related losses would typically turn to the federal Livestock Indemnity Program, but that farm bill provision has expired and its future is in flux due to congressional gridlock and the continuing federal shutdown.

"We're an independent, pretty self-sufficient bunch, but we need help," Ferguson said.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard and U.S. Sen. John Thune did an aerial assessment Thursday of the blizzard damage and livestock losses. State officials said at least 10,000 to 20,000 head of livestock died, but the estimate will likely rise.

The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association estimates that western South Dakota lost at least 5 percent of its cattle, much of which are raised for slaughter. Nearly a third of the state's 3.7 million cattle and calves reside in the western part of the state.

Ranchers who lost cattle will be able to dispose of the carcasses for free at several pits being dug in Pennington County, according to the county's Emergency Operations Center. The county is coordinating the effort because the U.S. Farm Service Agency is closed during the shutdown.

Livestock owners are encouraged to document all animal losses with pictures, vaccination and hauling receipts in case disaster payments are available in the future.

South Dakota Farmers Union president Doug Sombke said that even if the federal government was open and Congress could reach a compromise on a new farm bill, it would take months to implement the Livestock Indemnity Program.

Meanwhile, the Stockgrowers Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association are seeking donations to a relief fund that has been set up to help ranchers, and a couple of Montana groups are asking local farmers to donate cattle and sheep.

Ferguson, who also makes his living by working in the Wyoming coal fields, said he owns his herd, but many struggling ranchers have had to borrow money to stay in business.

"There's an awful lot of producers out here that sold our herds down because of the drought," he said. "A lot of people are into the financial institutions pretty hard."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. BeenThere2
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    BeenThere2 - October 14, 2013 5:36 pm
    All by herself? Really? Wow... that is a BIG reach by any measure.
  2. Deklan
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    Deklan - October 14, 2013 10:32 am
    It's interesting that you note you feed people who walk into the grocery store, when as in any private business, you're supported by people purchasing your product.

    It may be a two-fold cost increase for many people... Due to the loss of the cattle, future taxpayers may / will cover "disaster payments" if / when they are made available and the price of beef will increase for consumers of your product.

    There are other people who sustained property damage also, and I'm unaware of any mention in the media of government assistance for them.
  3. Roger Cornelius
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    Roger Cornelius - October 14, 2013 9:03 am
    Kristi really did it this time. She shutdown the government and now can't give government welfare to the ranchers that say they don't want a handout but want help.

    Maybe she'll find a way to get piece meal legislation passed to help out her special interest.

    Socialism ain't so good sometimes, huh?
  4. BeenThere2
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    BeenThere2 - October 14, 2013 8:17 am
    GL: We will survive and continue to feed your belly as well as anyone else who walks into the grocery store. We won't ask about your politics or whether or not you showed up to help bury the carcasses. We won't wonder why you didn't ask about our families or how will we pay for our childrens' needs. We will continue to support your right to speak your mind.
  5. Jonnnnn
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    Jonnnnn - October 14, 2013 8:14 am
    The amazing hypocrisy and gall from the agricultural - welfare industrial complex is complete.
    First, "the vast majority of ranchers don't have insurance covering storm-related damage".
    Second, they knew, "ranchers dealing with weather-related losses would typically turn to the federal Livestock Indemnity Program, but that farm bill provision has expired and its future is in flux".
    Third, so just we they really NEEDED insurance, they failed to purchase it.
    Fourth, they almost unanimously voted for candidates who did almost nothing to pass a farm bill and would eventually take repeated votes having the effect to shut down the government.
    Fifth, they claim to believe in the capitalist free enterprise system, which at its core, has failure and its cleansing effect in the marketplace -- but then they campaign instead for socialist bailouts and federal welfare to prop-up failed enterprises.
    Sixth, these loses are from snow. Snow, that as the Sunday, Blizzard of 2013, shows occurs with a frequency of about every 10 to 15 years.

    Perhaps its well past the time for a ranchers' mandatory "Affordable Livestock Care Act" which would force the purchase of private insurance from exchanges in order to keep the ranchers out of the federal welfare Livestock Indemnity Program "emergency room" and into the market place they profess to love. Nah, we'll shutdown the federal government before we'd actually "practice" in the marketplace.
  6. GL
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    GL - October 14, 2013 5:19 am
    "We're an independent, pretty self-sufficient bunch, but we need help," Ferguson said.
    How many hate the Federal Government.....until you need them?
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