I have been trying to wrap my head around what happened in South Dakota last week. The blizzard crippled an entire area, but the aftermath of what my fellow ranchers found after the snow stopped and winds subsided is nothing short of something out of a horror film.
I have heard losses of 20-50% of many herds. To put that in perspective for you that do not farm or ranch: That blizzard just cut those ranching families paychecks by 20-50% next year and it will take years for them to build back the herds they had. The pay cut won't be over next year or the year after that. Sadly, it will take years.
Not only did it cut their paychecks, but I am guessing it left a lot of fences wrecked that will have to be rebuilt before the cattle that are still alive can return.
We went through a few nasty snow storms over the years. What the news won't show, is that many of the animals that did survive are suffering now. Pneumonia, scratched eyes from the blowing snow, and muscles and joints that are stiff from being braced against the cold winds are just a few things that I am sure they are dealing with...that is IF they can find them.
I won't even start to describe what the ranchers and their families are going through. I will let someone from South Dakota explain how they are feeling and my rancher friend Robyn on The Ranch Wife Chronicles.
Going to pasture after pasture finding dead cattle would bother even the coldest hearted person, but ranchers aren't cold hearted. These are the people that have spent a lifetime of winters tending to their stock and putting them before themselves on Christmas Day. These sheep and cows are not just animals they are a piece of the rancher themselves.
My friend Krista said it best on Stauffer Dairy's blog,
"farmers do not take vacations.
Farming is a 24/7 all year long job.
Farming is a commitment like no other.
Farming is our choice...
Farming is our life...
Farming is not for the faint of heart..."
I pray that the next headline we read is NOT how many could not handle the stress and heartache and committed suicide. If you do not know the warning signs, please read about the Mental Health Issues in Agriculture written by a mental health professional that is also a farmer's wife.
If you would like to help the ranchers in the affected area, please Donate to the Rancher Relief Fund. Thanks to the government shutdown, they don't know if they will get any help from the government or what they need to document their losses.
My heart and prayers goes out to the families struggling to make sense of everything that happened to them. Let's be clear this was a FALL blizzard. In the middle of winter, these cows would have been better prepared after growing thicker hair coats in the fall and increasing weight. Cows are also brought closer to home in the winter, closer to winter feed, closer to people who can help them. Many times cows are moved 10-20 miles from the ranch headquarters to summer grass.
If you aren't able to make a monetary contribution, please keep them in your prayers or at least send positive thoughts their way. Post an encouraging note on one of the many Facebook pages or blogs by South Dakota Ranchers. Anything to give them a bright spot in a dismal day will be appreciated, whether acknowledged or not.
Peace be with the ranch families of South Dakota,
A Kansas Farm Mom