Earlier this fall, the citizens of western South Dakota were struck with a monstrous blizzard that dumped almost four feet of snow in some places, nearly overnight.
The people of South Dakota were at a complete loss; electricity was gone, cars, driveways, and stores were inaccessible. But perhaps even more devastating than the shock of the storm for some men and women: not being able to get to livestock. Farmers, ranchers, and livestock producers had no way of preparing their animals for this horrible catastrophe, and an estimated 15,000-30,000 cattle lost their lives to the blizzard. This is one of the biggest hits to the cattle industry ever recorded in such a short period of time.
Growing up on a cattle ranch has taught me that raising beef is more than just a means for income; it’s a lifestyle. Beef producers aren’t merely part of an industry, but of a community. The beef “community” is made up of hardworking men and women who follow a code of conduct in their day-to-day lives, and always put the livestock before themselves. I can’t even remember all the times my dad has come in to the house late at night with a snow-covered mustache, trying to thaw out his fingers after helping a newborn calf get settled in with its mama, or making sure the cattle can get to water. The dedication and passion it takes to raise livestock creates a bond between those who practice that way of life, and makes fellow producers feel like a second family.
This idea of brotherhood in the beef community has proven true with the adversity that South Dakotan cattle producers are facing this winter. As soon as word got out that cattle had been lost in the blizzard, producers in neighboring states and from across the country immediately took action. Cattle were shipped in by the truckload to help mend some of the loss. Financial relief funds were started to support farmers and ranchers and provide means to help restore their herds. Word traveled fast, and more and more love and support is being sent to these men and women every day. Immediately after the blizzard, the South Dakota Stockgrowers, Cattlemen, and Sheep Growers Associations came together to create the Ranchers Relief Fund, and have raised a total of more than $1.5 million. Other organizations, such as Heifers for South Dakota, are more focused on sending cattle to help producers rebuild.
I know that the problems livestock growers in western South Dakota are facing right now are going to be very hard to repair. I also know that they have more support from the industry-the community- which they are a part of than they could ever hope for. Thank you to everyone in the beef family who has supported these men and women through their tragedy. Until next time,