Blizzard: About 5,000 head of sheep die

Farm Forum

While a lot has been written about the cattle losses in the October blizzard, few are talking about the 4,000 to 5,000 head of sheep that died in the storm in the western part of South Dakota.

Max Matthew of the South Dakota Sheep Growers said that there were roughly 100,000 head of sheep in the affected area, including Harding County. Losses affected a much smaller percentage of the flocks.

Producers who still have lambs to sell will most likely take a dock on their weight over the last couple of weeks, but they certainly didn’t lose the huge numbers that the cattle industry lost.

“I’ve been hearing that lambs fared better than the ewes,” he said. “Many lambs were dug out of the snow still alive. They’ll do fine. One producer lost 100 ewes and 100 lambs. Another lost 100 ewes and two lambs. Wind is the real killer. Sheep producers worked to get their animals into corrals and shelterbelts, so losses were at a minimum.”

Harding County in northwestern part of the state was missed with the storm. “That’s where a lot of the open range sheep are are located,” he said. “If that area would have gotten hit, losses would have been much higher.

Those who took losses will likely rebuild and keep going.

“In my opinion, most of the cattle died from the exposure to cold, driving rain, not necessarily the snow,” Matthew said. “The animals were not haired up enough. They were in a weakened state when the snow hit.”

With sheep, he explains, they will pile together in a corner while cattle will separate. Sheep aren’t as likely to die of hypothermia as the water runs through the wool and runs out the bottom of the fleece.

As clean-up efforts continue, some snow still covers the draws. There are areas that now have 1 1/2 feet of snow where there used to be 8 feet. It’s making trails sloppy. “Sorting lambs in this is not fun, but I’m glad I have the ones that I do.” Market price is around $1.80 to $1.85 per hundredweight.

Good market for cattle

Last week, a story featured comments from the two livestock sale barns in Aberdeen. When I talked with Casey Perman of Mobridge Livestock this week, he said this week would probably be a record week at their barn with about 15,000 to 16,000 animals going through the ring. He said many people are trying to rebuild herds, and the weather conditions have been favorable. He said he sold a nice group of 504 calves for $2.04 last Thursday,

Coffee time

A reader sent a note to columnist Jerry Nelson about his “Coffee Time” column: “I loved your article on Coffee Time. I had several cups today after a very busy week of moving cattle and getting the semi trucks in to load them for market. The guys need to have that pot of coffee to warm themselves up, after sorting cows, calves and loading them after brunch, they finish up with that extra cup or two of more coffee.”

She continued, “I also remember that Egg Coffee that was supposed to keep it from getting bitter. I really don’t know if it ever worked, but our church always made that, too. Maybe they have better coffee grounds now than they did back then. I just know its easier to NOT mess with the egg business.

“I had an uncle who used more sugar and cream than coffee, and he seemed to get just as much kick out of his as did the rest of those guys drinking coffee. I enjoyed your story and have a friend that wouldn’t live if she couldn’t get those extra cups of coffee in during the day, so have another cup and enjoy your day, I know I will.

– Donna Eszlinger of Ashley, N.D.

If you’d like to voice your opinion on any topics involving agriculture, call Farm Forum Writer Connie Sieh Groop at 605-622-2343 or toll-free at 1-800-925-4100, ext. 343. You can also email comments to

Connie Sieh Groop, Farm Forum Writer