A Montana-led effort to deliver heifers to storm-devastated ranches in South Dakota will make its first delivery Friday.
Ty Linger of Heifers for South Dakota said the group has raised 500 replacement animals to be delivered to victims of the Atlas storm, which killed as many as 30,000 South Dakota cattle Oct. 4. The first heifers are to be delivered Friday. The group is beating the bushes for more donations.
“To a rancher, that’s hope right there,” Linger said Monday. “We’re actually making a shipment on Friday, bringing cattle from Nebraska to a young family in Hermosa. Most of the ranchers we’re visiting with say they could take cattle today.”
The freakish fall snowstorm caught ranchers off-guard, dumping more than four feet of show in parts of the Black Hills and two feet in other areas. Livestock caught outside in summer pasture hadn’t developed the winter coat needed to survive such a storm and were also rain-soaked before the snow started falling. With losses ranging from $1,600 to $2,300 per animal, ranchers were devastated.
Linger said the it’s unlikely the South Dakota ranchers can be made whole, but if enough animals are donated, those in need should have at least a dozen or so pregnant cows and heifers, which will deliver calves to sell next fall.
Heifers for South Dakota is asking donors to contribute a heifer they would be proud to own. With cattle prices at record highs, that’s no small contribution, Linger said.
Linger is asking donors to contact him at 406-853-3188 or by email at email@example.com. On the group website www.helpforsouthdakota.com, the group has a list of ranchers in 10 states that are coordinating donations locally. Heifers for South Dakota is still looking for someone to coordinate donations in Billings.
“If someone stepped forward, that would be excellent because it seems like when we get an organizer for an area, that’s when people start coming in,” Linger said.
The economic losses from the storm are severe for the South Dakota ranch economy, but are unlikely to be felt by the beef-eating public or regional ranchers, said Darrell Peel, beef economist at Oklahoma State University.
The United States cattle population, including calves, is slightly more than 89 million, according to the USDA. At 30,000 head, the South Dakota loss to the U.S. herd is 0.03 percent, and roughly the number of cattle slaughtered in the United States in a couple of hours on any weekday.
From the slaughter perspective, 100,000 cattle killed in South Dakota is less than the number of cattle slaughtered on any single weekday last week. A 30,000 head loss would represent the slaughter for just a few hours of one weekday.