As cattle producers in western South Dakota continue to tally losses following the unexpected blizzard, futures markets react to the idea of even smaller cattle supplies already at their lowest level in over 60 years.
In addition to losses seen in northwestern Nebraska, South Dakota has cattle losses estimated anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000 head. The office of State Veterinarian Dr. Dustin Oedekoven has recorded 4,000 cattle deaths, but many more animals remain undocumented or undiscovered in pastures and sloppy conditions created by the snowstorm have made it difficult for producers to navigate pastures.
While producers deal with cleanup efforts, markets reacted at the start of the week. CME live cattle soared to a seven-month high Monday as the effects of the storm, firm wholesale beef prices and higher-than-expected cash prices were all supportive.
Oedekoven told the Dakota Radio Group producers should clear dead livestock in a timely manner and cautiously remove animals found in stockdams and other water-filled areas. He also advises producers to provide care for surviving livestock. Oedekoven says cattle will be stressed and their immune systems are depressed following the storm and increased illnesses are a concern to watch for.
Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, says producers are not only affected financially, but emotionally as well.
"The ranchers care deeply for these animals. To find so many of them have perished in this storm is really emotionally devastating," she said.
Producers are encouraged to contact the Animal Industry Board office with death totals by calling 773-3321 or by going to the website http://www.aib.sd.gov and filling out the Livestock Death Loss Reporting Form.
For more animal-handling advice, read animal well-being amidst weather disasters.
Want to help? Organizations are collecting both financial and material donations to assist producers affected. Click here for information about donations.