The images and stories coming out of western South Dakota are heartbreaking. The early October blizzard that hit the state dropped up to 4’ of snow in some places. It stranded and killed untold numbers of calves that were about to be sold as well as cows that would produce next year’s calves.
If the timing had been different, if the storm had struck a few weeks later, those livestock would have been moved from their summer pastures to their winter place, and losses would be much less severe.
As it stands, livestock producers need help. Relief funds have been established here in South Dakota and in Nebraska, where losses also occurred.
Some producers may be wiped out. Others will choose to rebuild, but they’ll need working capital to manage through this. Now is the time for livestock producers to work with their lenders on a plan to regain strength. Ask for assistance. No two operations are identical, so each recovery plan should be tuned to the individual needs and business plans of the rancher.
Our hearts go out to the families affected. Anyone who works in agriculture knows it’s a risky business. This year it’s a blizzard; last year it was severe drought, and the year before that, floods. But besides being a risky business, agriculture is an industry marked by people who understand better than most the need to help their neighbor.
It’s time like this when we can lend more than words of comfort. Some of us will help with expertise and financial services; many will donate to public funds; and still others will simply travel to a neighbor’s ranch to lend a hand or offer a hot meal. Whatever it is, we can all make an impact.
You can pitch in by donating online to the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund
or, in Nebraska, mail a donation to the Cattlemen Relief Fund at P.O. Box 1125 in Chadron, NE 69337.