Oct 17 Donations of money and some cattle have
been rolling in for South Dakota ranchers after a blizzard last
week killed tens of thousands of cattle in one of the state's
worst agriculture tragedies, state officials said on Thursday.
Dozens of minimum-security prison inmates were aiding the
clean-up effort, gathering debris in three towns in the western
part of the state hit by record snowfall that felled trees and
knocked out power lines.
"This is a very tough time in western South Dakota. Many
ranchers suffered devastating losses putting them in an
unthinkable position," South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard
said in a statement to Reuters.
Between 15,000 and 30,000 cattle were estimated to have
perished in the storm, according to South Dakota state
veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven.
Animals suffocated as four feet (1.2 meters) of snow piled
up. Others suffered from hypothermia, fell off rocky ledges or
were hit by vehicles as they wandered into roadways in the
The deaths are expected to result in tens of millions of
dollars in lost income for ranchers, as they were ready to sell
young calves, valued at $800 or more. Also perishing were cows
pregnant with calves that would have been born in the spring.
South Dakota in January had 3.85 million head of cattle, the
sixth-largest herd in the United States, according to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
So far, more than $190,000 was donated to the South Dakota
Rancher Relief Fund, said Regina Jahr, executive director of the
Black Hills Area Community Foundation, which is administering
The CHS Foundation - the charity arm of the largest U.S.
farm cooperative CHS Inc - donated $100,000 while
$70,000 was pledged online from people across the United States
and Canada, Jahr said.
"Ranchers across western South Dakota suffered significant
loss of cattle, sheep and other livestock as a result of this
storm, the vast majority of which is not covered by insurance or
other programs," CHS Foundation president William Nelson said in
The Black Hills group was meeting on Thursday with other
agencies, including local arms of the American Red Cross and
United Way, to determine how to administer the aid, Jahr said.
With the cattle spread out over a wide expanse of
pastureland, it could be weeks or months before a final tally of
the dead is available.
Ranchers were also seeking donations of pregnant cows as
well as heifers of breeding age for help in rebuilding their
About 60 inmates of the South Dakota Department of
Corrections were cleaning up tree branches in Rapid City,
Spearfish and Sturgis this week, according to department
spokesman Michael Winder.
Parts of Colorado and Wyoming saw heavy snowfall during last
week's storms that also brought more than a dozen of tornadoes
to Iowa and Nebraska, injuring at least 15 people, damaging
homes and knocking down power lines.
(Reporting by Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; Editing by Bob