While cattle producers in western South Dakota continue to calculate losses stemming from the early October blizzard, a South Dakota Stockgrowers Association official estimates the economic impact.

Cattle losses were estimated by the State Veterinarian to be between 15,000 and 30,000 head, but other reports push losses past 80,000 head. Stockgrowers Executive Director Silvia Christen says cattle lost in the area before the blizzard were worth $550 million, a value significantly cut by the effects of the storm.

Few producers affected by the storm had insurance to cover losses and the Livestock Indemnity Program, designed to compensate producers, expired with the 2008 Farm Bill. A retroactive LIP could be included in the updated farm bill, but until then Christen says the state’s economy will be affected.

Christen told the Rapid City Journal the indirect impact of the cattle deaths could total $1.7 billion. The total includes the normal expenditures rendered unnecessary like feed and veterinary care for the cattle and business services from area attorneys and banks as well as personal budget cuts including equipment purchases, shopping and dining plans.

The Associated Press reports a relief fund established to assist livestock producers reeling from losses has already collected about $300,000 in donations and a Montana rancher is campaigning to collect animal donations to assist producers in rebuilding their herds.

For more information read Darell Mark’s calculation of the total cattle losses.