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Cattle Death Count Mounts From Early Upper Plains Blizzard

Spencer, IA: (Oct. 14, 2013) – Observers who have been there say more cattle than originally thought died in that early October blizzard that hammered eastern Wyoming, southern South Dakota and northwest Nebraska.

Up to four feet of snow and winds in excess of 60 mph caught cattlemen unprepared. Cattle deaths in the area are now estimated to be between 60,000 and 100,000 head.

Stories abound. Al Davis is a rancher from Hyannis, Nebraska. He said he and a friend traveled for miles and were never out of sight of five to ten dead animals. He said there are surviving cattle that will sicken and die.

Another rancher lost 350 of his 400 cows. He drove them into a corral at the start of the storm where they smothered. Friends say the rancher is emotionally overwhelmed.

Some cows managed to survive the storm by eating pine needles because ranchers weren’t able to reach them and grass was buried under feet of snow. Davis says the pine needle-diet will cause those cows to abort their calves.

South Dakota Ag Secretary Lucas Lentsch toured the area by airplane last week. He said the aerial view confirmed the devastation.

Lentsch is encouraging ranchers to take photographs and keep detailed records of their losses, in case they become eligible for federal assistance. Lentsch says the disaster may serve as a catalyst for getting a farm bill done, as it does contain livestock assistance.