Cattle producers from South Dakota’s neighboring states, as well as farms as far away as Virginia, are showing the country that in the cattle industry we’re all in this together.
South Dakota state veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven increased his estimate of cattle losses to between 15,000 and 30,000 in western South Dakota following the blizzard; however, other estimates go to 80,000 head and higher. Three South Dakota livestock associations are working to collect funds to assist cattle producers, but another producer outside state lines saw an opportunity to contribute as well.
The Black Hills Pioneer reports Montana rancher Ty Linger established the “Heifers for S. Dakota” Facebook page to generate donations for affected producers. Groups in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Utah and Virginia are collecting donations and livestock contributions have come from as far away as Oklahoma, Virginia and Arizona.
“We were just thinking about what we could do that would make a difference, something that would matter,” Linger told the Black Hills Pioneer. “A lot of times you hear about hurricanes, tornadoes, and you want to help, you want to send money, but to a ranching community – if you were running say 200 head, and suddenly 150 are gone or dead, that’s a tremendous loss. Most haven’t even been able to sell their calves, so their one big paycheck this year just isn’t going to come.”
The idea of ranchers helping each other rings true. More than 130 head of animals worth more than $200,000 have already been pledged to the campaign.
In addition to bred cattle, the effort has received offers from people willing to transport livestock and donate fuel, trucks and distribution services.
In addition to the “Heifers for S. Dakota” campaign, Montana rancher Kerry White, head of Citizens for Balanced Use, is attempting to colleck 10,000 head to start shipping to affected producers.
"We're not trying to replace the herds. We're trying to rebuild them," White told Reuters. White is attempting to deliver the donated livestock beginning in December, but Alysa Robbins, outreach manager for the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, said operations may not be able to receive animals until spring.
Other national groups are joining in to relieve the effects of the winter storm. AgChat Foundation is leading an effort to raise funds for producers in South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming and has set a goal to raise $500,000. Donations can be made through the AgChat Foundation’s giving site.