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Ca$h for Cattle raises funds for South Dakota blizzard victims

By Jennifer Carrico

Just as the FFA motto states, “Learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, living to serve,” the Lone Tree FFA is putting the “living to serve” part in action.

The early October 2013 Atlas snowstorm that hit South Dakota and other nearby states was a surprise to cattle ranchers who still had their cows on fall pasture and cornstalk fields. The storm came so quickly they were not prepared for the conditions, and cattle were not able to seek necessary shelter. This led to the death of tens of thousands of cattle and other livestock.

Back in southeast Iowa, FFA advisor Bridget Mahoney discussed the storm with her animal science class.

“We read some articles about the storm, and they found blogs from farmers and ranchers in South Dakota that endured this natural disaster and the news shocked them,” she said. “We spent time learning about why this happened to the livestock and where these farmers and ranchers will go from here.

“After much discussion, my students decided they wanted to do something to help out. Being a small FFA chapter, any chance we get to live the FFA motto, we should take. The students decided they wanted to take the ‘living to serve’ part of the motto and put it to action,” Mahoney said.

Erik Murry, a member of the Lone Tree FFA, said the class got started talking about the devastation and what it would be like to lose livestock, and they knew they wanted to do something.

“That’s where the idea came to sell T-shirts to raise money for the South Dakota ranchers,” he said.

The students came up with a fundraiser called “Ca$h for Cattle.”

Another member, Kaylin Burr, said coming up with the idea was easy, but then they had to design the shirts. They wanted to include the FFA logo and received the OK from Iowa’s state advisor to include it on the shirts.

“Most of us have grown up on a farm and know that losing just one animal is painful, but losing as many as they had, that would be devastating,” Burr said.

The students thought it would just be a local activity and each FFA member was to sell five shirts. They thought that would make the fundraiser successful.

“Our first order was for 220 Ca$h for Cattle T-shirts. As of the end of January, we’ve sold over 500 shirts,” Mahoney said. “I’m very proud of what these kids have done.”

The members started by selling the shirts at the same time they had their annual fruit sales. Then the project was promoted through word-of-mouth and social media.

“Through our Lone Tree FFA Facebook page, the students’ individual pages and several beef breed association pages, we have gotten the word out,” she said. “Originally we were just going to sell through December, but the orders keep coming in, so we have extended sales through March.”

Burr said the group decided to make a bulletin board to map out where all the shirts have been sold.

“Currently, we’ve sold to 13 different states including Maryland, Texas, Idaho and South Dakota,” she said. “It’s nice to get notes in some of the orders showing how much people appreciate what we are doing.”

The chapter has heard from past state FFA officers from other states commending them for helping others.

“One lady from Hermosa, S.D., an area affected by the snowstorm, called to tell us how it had affected the farmers and ranchers in her area and then she thanked us for what we are doing,” Burr said.

All the proceeds from the T-shirt sales are going to the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund, a fund established by the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and South Dakota Sheepgrowers Association at the Black Hills Area Community Foundation to provide support and relief assistance to those in the agriculture industry impacted by the blizzard of Oct. 4 to 7, 2013.

Farmers and ranchers in South Dakota had until the end of December to apply for funds through the foundation. According to a Jan. 25 press release, the Rancher Relief Fund will be dispersing an additional $3.3 million to hundreds of livestock producers in the affected area.

South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association President Cory Eich said, “We can’t thank the Rancher Relief Fund donors enough. The outpouring of support from around the country has been gratifying and we’re pleased to be able to distribute over $4 million back to the livestock producers of western South Dakota and neighboring states who lost animals in the early blizzard.”

The Rancher Relief Fund distributed nearly $775,000 to affected livestock producers prior to the application deadline. The South Dakota Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters will be dispersing an additional $3.3 million to the qualified applicants in the coming weeks.

Approximately 600 applications were received, reporting a loss of nearly 43,000 head of cattle, sheep and horses. All disbursements of funds are based on criteria established by representatives of the founding livestock organizations. Applicants must demonstrate they are livestock producers and have lost a minimum of 10 percent of their livestock herd.

“We recognize the financial assistance from the Rancher Relief Fund will not come close to fully reimbursing the ranchers that suffered devastating losses. However, we know every little bit helps in the wake of the historic storm,” said Bob Fortune, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association president.

Currently, the Lone Tree FFA has raised approximately $3,000 to send to the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund.

“It may not be a lot in the grand scheme of things, but these kids are proud of what they have accomplished and I am proud of what they have done,” Mahoney said.

Banding together and working as a team to accomplish a goal is what they have learned.

“It is neat to see how the agricultural community has come together to help their own who are in need,” Murry said. “If it can happen in South Dakota, it could happen in Iowa too. It’s nice to know that we are all there to help each other.”

For more information on the Ca$h for Cattle fundraiser, visit the Lone Tree FFA Facebook page. To order a T-shirt, contact Bridget Mahoney at For information on donating to the South Dakota Ranchers Relief Fund, visit

Jennifer Carrico can be reached by phone at 515-833-2120 or by email at

Date: 4/7/2014


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