On Friday, October 05, 2013, a Blizzard of gargantuan proportions for the first week of October swept across the state of South Dakota, with some areas in the Black Hills reporting more than four feet of snow by Saturday, and drifts over 15 feet high. By Monday afternoon dead cattle lay alongside South Dakota Hwy. 34 outside of Sturgis, S.D. Cattle were soaked to the bone by the first onslaught of heavy rainfall and wet snow, and then the heavy snowfall began. Cattle simply dropped to the ground and couldn’t get back up. Because it was so early in the season, they didn’t have their winter coat of fur. Thousands of young calves didn’t survive the storm, and many pregnant cattle that would have delivered early spring calves were lost. It’s being reported that 75,000 cattle perished in the storm, a repercussion that will be felt in the cattle industry in South Dakota for years to come.
The blizzard couldn’t have come at a worse time for South Dakota farmers. It happened exactly 5 days after a government shut down over Obamacare. Congress had not acted on a much needed farm bill, so there are no emergency funds now to even come to the aide of a farming community in desperate circumstances. There isn’t even money to help ranchers with the monumental task of tracking down and cleaning up the lost herds of cattle.
Gov. Dennis Daughard is actually asking for donations from the public, because the crisis is now, and there is no time to spare in the massive clean-up effort. Dead and rotting animals on the ground put the surviving animals at risk for disease. Some ranchers have lost everything while some were totally unscathed, but it may take from 2 weeks to a month to get anything close to an accurate tally about the numbers of cattle actually lost.
Some ranchers have their whole herd just lying dead on the ground in a big black splotch that can be seen from the air. South Dakota cannot wait for the House of Representatives Tea Party Republicans to decide at what point they are willing to discuss passing a budget. South Dakota needs a Federal Budget and a Farm Bill passed yesterday.
This Blizzard was totally unexpected, and it is now catastrophic. Governor Dennis Daughard is asking for help. The Good Book says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Tea Party Republicans say we don’t need Big Government. We need neighbors helping neighbors. This is unfortunately a Golden Opportunity to see how well that premise works. If you’re in the position to help South Dakotans right now, they need you.