The latest estimates, according to multiple news sources, put the number of dead cattle at about 75,000. The affected area is estimated to have around 1 million cattle and 100,000 sheep, according to the Rapid City Journal.
South Dakota is home to 3.85 million cattle. The state has almost five head of cattle for every person – the highest cattle-to-human ratio of any state.
The economic damage to the region is estimated at approximately $600 million. The vast majority of cattle ranchers do not own insurance that would cover damage from storms, according to the Associated Press.
According to coverage of the storms in Real American Cowboy Magazine, the storm took ranchers by surprise, as cattle typically stay on summer pastures until the middle of October.
Cattle in open pastures were first subjected to 12 hours of rain, followed by roughly 48 hours of wet snowfall and winds surpassing 60 miles per hour. While some survived, others froze to death or suffocated in the snow.
After the storm picked up on Thursday, Oct. 4, most ranchers were stuck inside and unable to check on herds until Sunday, Oct. 6.
Many of the region’s cattle are raised for beef, and the storm hit at a time when the nation’s beef cattle stock is at its record lowest since the 1950s, according to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board.
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard and U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) took an aerial tour of Meade County on Thursday, Oct. 10, in an effort to better grasp the scale of the damage to area ranchers. The governor said at a press conference following the surveillance that he was “dismayed” to see the large groups of dead animals scattered across the countryside. Several pits have been dug in Pennington County to help dispose of the deceased cattle.
The South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association has established a donation drive to provide relief funds to affected ranchers.© Food Safety News