Early estimates of the number of cattle killed as a result of the blizzard last weekend reached upwards of 60,000 but an update by the state veterinarian pins the number under 20,000.

The blizzard affecting western South Dakota cut some cattle herds by up to 50 percent and early reports had losses near 60,000 head of cattle. According to the Capital Journal, State veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven said Thursday the total confirmed cattle deaths is about 2,000 head, but he assesses losses will total between 10,000 and 20,000.

“Everybody wants to know the number, but truthfully we don’t know. We won’t know for some time,” Oedekoven said.

A fund has been established by state livestock groups to help cattle producers who have suffered great financial losses. The Livestock Indemnity Program expired with the 2008 Farm Bill on Oct. 1 and not all insurance agencies cover losses from freezing or smothering in a snowstorm.

A fund has been established for South Dakota producers, but Montana groups are asking its state’s ranchers, along with producers in Wyoming and Idaho, to donate production cattle and sheep to producers affected by the blizzard.

According to the Associated Press, the Citizens for Balanced Use and the Bar Quarter Circle Ranch are working with the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association to organize tax-deductible donations.