Farm Management Minute: 2013 October Blizzard

Farm Forum

On the weekend of October 4th-6th, South Dakota cattle ranching took a major hit. It was a frozen hurricane that moved into the Black Hills area and the surrounding prairie; a perfect storm the meteorologists say now. It is has also been stated that the magnitude of this storm had not been seen in the western regions since the 1880’s. Cattlemen knew a storm was coming, but the predictions were far less than what actually occurred. Tens of thousands of livestock were buried in upwards of 30+ inches of snow, pushed by 70 mile an hour winds. Two years of income, plus the production factory, wiped out in a two day blizzard; the thought boggles the mind. Yet, we have almost half of our production agriculture population dealing with this exact problem. As always, the ranchers are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, rounding up the survivors, and counting their losses. Agriculture has formed a tough breed of individuals that persevere no matter the odds stacked against them, and that has been demonstrated throughout the past week.

For all their independence, agriculture also sticks together when the chips are down. Facebook came alive and became the media of choice to get the word out to what was happening in South Dakota, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Nebraska, with South Dakota bearing the brunt of the storm. Offers of help have appeared on Facebook from ranchers in NW Kansas offering to come and help with whatever South Dakota ranchers needed- horses, fencing, etc. A western wear store in Texas has “Prayers for South Dakota Ranchers” on their webpage. The South Dakota Stockgrower’s Association, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, and the South Dakota Sheepgrower’s Association joined forces and established a fund to help direct monies that had been offered. The emergency management systems kicked in to help with directing offers from people willing to come verify losses. The South Dakota Department of Agriculture has established a Helpline 2-1-1 to call for information or to sign up if you want to help in the recovery effort. This outpouring of support comes from the empathy of agriculturists across the region and country. South Dakota also knows what an impact this loss will have on state coffers and main street businesses. Only time will tell of the impact on the economy of the state.

So many factors worked against the ranchers but, once the shock is over, they will have to sit down with their families, accountants, and bankers and decide on the next step. Financial records will be evaluated and the steps for recovery will be planned out. This will not be a quick fix, but with time and good management, I feel the industry will recover. As one producer on the eastern side of the state stated, “We can do a lot with genetics and land management, but we will never be able to contain and control Mother Nature.”