State vet estimates storm killed 10-20K livestock - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

State vet estimates storm killed 10-20K livestock

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The blizzard that blew through the northern plains over the weekend stranded entire herds of cattle in pastures, killing thousands of cows and calves. The livestock devastation is worse in South Dakota, where up to 30 inches of snow fell, and millions of dollars in economic losses could make the winter storm the worst in the state's history.

The calves and cows are grazing around snow drifts. They were still out to pasture when the unexpected strength of massive winter storm took livestock producers by surprise.

"In October these cattle can take pretty good storms, that's why all the cattle were out grazing yet, so we weren't concerned about them," says livestock producer Dan Christman.

Christman became concerned after two feet heavy wet snow had fallen and the storm was still raging. His herd broke through a fence line and some of the cows and calves ended up in a stock pond. His sons rescued some of the cattle by using snow mobiles to pull the animals out of the water.

Collin Christman: "A couple that were trapped in there, we hooked on tow ropes and we were able to pull those out no problem and they were able to stand-up after a couple hours."

All the cattle couldn't be saved. At least fifty head were lost and the Christman's are now piling up dead animals. Their neighbors are busy with the same gruesome task.

"Other ranchers they only found half their cattle so far, so they don't know what kind of losses there could be," Christman explains.

Ranchers also don't know if they will receive any kind of disaster assistance to cover some of their cattle losses because the government shutdown has forced FSA offices to close.

"We don't have a farm bill, we don't know if there is a disaster payment, so don't even know if these producers should fill out any forms," says Julie Kramlich with Adams County Extension Service.

Kamich is advising producers to take pictures and document losses so when government offices reopen they can begin to make disaster claims.

The cattle the Christman's lost are located in extreme northern South Dakota, just a few miles from the North Dakota border. As the snow continues to melt, they'll search areas of their ranch that are currently not accessible because of snow and mud and hope they don't find many more storm victims.

South Dakota ag officials estimate, five percent of the states 1.5 million cattle perished during last weekends winter storm.  State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven says state officials estimate at least 10,000 to 20,000 head of livestock died in last weekend's blizzard in western South Dakota.

But Oedekoven says officials believe those estimates will rise as more information is gathered. Oedekoven says officials are compiling numbers of livestock deaths from ranchers, the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol and others.

Meanwhile, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association are seeking donations to a relief fund set up to help ranchers who have lost livestock. People who want to donate can go online at http://www.giveblackhills.org and search "Rancher Relief Fund."

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