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Sending prayers to South Dakota

By Holly Martin

There are some times that reporting the news of agriculture is fun: when record yields are widespread and bins are busting, or when new innovations are released that you know will change the future of the industry, or an industry leader is recognized for his years of work.

This is not one of those times. This is one of the times that I hesitate to read the stories coming in. My heart is breaking for South Dakota ranchers.

Here it is, over two weeks post-blizzard and just now are we beginning to understand the magnitude of the storm. Wild numbers have been thrown out, but as you can read in Dave Bergmeier’s update on Page 7B, it will be months before we know exactly how many cattle were lost. Suffice it to say, the numbers are significant. Some ranchers have lost 50, 60, 70 percent of their herds.

The storm caught many of us off guard. We all knew that it was coming, but as with any early season—or late season—blizzard, you don’t expect it to last long. Combine that with the fact that many of the cattle were still at summer pasture and a period of rain before the snow and it was the recipe for a disaster.

And now, the challenges continue. Ranchers need to prepare for health issues in the cattle that did survive. The government shutdown only complicates the problem.

That’s not to say there isn’t any good news. There is. There’s stories of cattlemen riding pastures endlessly and finally finding a group they had been searching for. And you hear ranchers saying things like, “We only lost 12 bred heifers. It could have been so much worse.”

As the agricultural communities do, other producers have been taking care of their own. As a part of that, a relief fund has been set up.

Donations can be made to:

SD Rancher Relief Fund

c/o Black Hills Community Area Foundation

P.O. Box 231, Rapid City, SD 57709

Or go online at www.giveblackhills.org and search “Rancher Relief Fund.”

Farmers and ranchers, regardless of their location, can sympathize with their South Dakota brethren. Losses like these take a toll not only on the finances of a business, but more importantly on the hearts of the ranchers who were entrusted with the care of those animals. We can only hope that having the support and prayers of ranchers from all over the country will help you through. God bless you all.

Holly Martin can be reached by phone at 1-800-452-7171, ext. 1806, or by email at hmartin@hpj.com.

Date: 10/21/2013

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