NOBULL: South Dakota ranchers hit hard by blizzard

· A rancher near Scenic couldn’t find his cattle yesterday and says he nearly killed a horse trying to get through the snow while searching. He turned back and today, with the help of a pilot/friend, flew over his land south of the Badlands. He found “the trail of death”. About 200 of his 600 cows were dead in a draw. The calves that were still alive were standing around the mothers bawling. The rest of his cows and calves are safe though he cant get to them yet. I told him about the effort the State was making to help restore power and pick up carcasses. He said, “Tell them thank you for what they’re doing.” He said he started ranching with fewer cows than he has now and there’s no question he’ll rebuild his herd.

· A rancher north of New Underwood found his entire herd of 63 cows in the shed where he’d taken them for protection. None of them survived. His wife told me he wasn’t ready to talk on the phone yet but she wanted me to know they were ok.

· A rancher south of Reva lost 75 head of cows but assumes the other 250 are ok. His neighbor has located them. He doesn’t have any children taking over the ranch and told me that he’s done trying to beat nature. He thinks he’ll sell out this fall.

· A man near Interior found his cows had pushed themselves and their calves over a badlands wall and killed many of them. He estimates his loss at 50% of total herd. He has a pile of 17 cows dead in a road ditch. He looked at them from his living room window while we talked. He was grateful to hear that he could get help to haul them out for rendering at a minimal cost.

· A young man east of Hermosa estimates he lost 30% of his 200 breeding cows. He found them all in one pile in a draw covered in snow. He saw the heads and hooves sticking from the snow and can’t bring himself to go closer or dig them out. He’d weaned calves on Thursday and thankfully they’re all safely in the barn. His father-in-law will help him document and dig out tomorrow. He wants to rebuild but he thought he needed a few days to get his confidence back. “I’m young but I always thought I was a good rancher,” he said. “I thought I’d taken care of them but I guess I should have done more.” He hung up the phone with an apology as his voice broke.

· A guy in Belvidere didn’t loose any of his own but told stories of neighbors who lost 20 to 25% of their herd in drifts. He spent the day gathering strays off the road and river breaks and bringing them in for feed and water. Most of them belong to a young neighbor and they’ll be taken care of until their owner can come get them. He wanted to know what else he could do and was glad to hear of the state’s response today. Electricity and carcass disposal where his main priorities too.

This is just some of what I’ve heard today. Thank you for letting me share their stories. And, thank you for all of your efforts to help get a response off the ground today. It will mean a lot to these folks in the coming days.

Thank you.