I have been seeing many posts on Social Media about how many tens of thousands of cattle that were lost to this months history making Blizzard in South Dakota. Some of these posts are written by others in the cattle and/or agriculture business. These people seem to understand that the ranchers were doing everything that they could. This could be described as 'The Perfect Storm'. The weather leading up to this storm had been very mild so the cattle had not yet started growing their winter coats (Strike 1). Strike 2 was that it was early October and had been a great year for grass to continue to grow so the cattle were still out in their summer pastures. These summer pastures are generally miles from the homestead and have very little shelter as well as long distances between water sources. Strike 3 was that in the past many of these storms had been predicted and not materialized so they may have let their guard down. I can not say that I blame them on this one. Myself and many others like me stop paying as much attention to the forecast of tornadoes and severe weather in our own parts of the country after they have been forecast several times and not materialized. This is just human nature.
In order for these cattle ranches to survive from year to year, these ranchers must take great care in when the animals are in 'summer' pasture and when they are in 'winter' pastures. 'Winter' pastures tend to have more cover and closer water and feed sources. As a cattle farmer myself, if I had good grass still in pastures and snow doesn't usually start for at least a month, my cattle would be out on grass, too. I think that most of us can agree that this was through no fault of the ranchers. Mother Nature will always win the battle, no matter how hard we try to stop her. i can also only imagine the emotional toll this has taken on the ranchers. I know how it bothers my emotions when I lose one or two calves during calving season. I can not imagine the emotional toll some of these ranchers are facing due to loosing their entire herds at the same time. Some reports have been given that in places the snow was higher than fences so some cattle walked from their summer pastures to those of another rancher. Now the task at hand is to account for all of your animals (both those that perished and those fortunate to survive). This will not be an easy nor quick task. I pray that all of the ranchers can account for their animals and that as a cattle community, we pull together and help them out so that they do not loose their business (some of which have been in the family for generations) through no fault of their own.
Some of the other posts that I have seen, point the finger of blame at the ranchers for not taking better care of the stock. In order to continually raise stock in this environment, the ranchers have to be some of the best at what they do or the ranches would not last for generation after generation. I also wonder to myself if some of these people have ever tried to round up cattle before a storm hits. Cattle are generally affected by the weather pattern more so than we are. As we mature, we tend to learn how to control the natural impulses our body has based on the weather. If you don't believe this is true, visit any early elementary classroom right before a snow or severe storm! Ranchers learn to still 'listen' to these impulses and do what needs to be done before these storms hit. Even if they had gone out and tried to round up cattle right before the storm (I am sure some of them did). the chances of them having enough time to get them all into the winter pastures would have been slim. Cattle tend to be more flighting during these changes and less inclined to act the way ranchers need them to in order to protect them. We should not judge the actions of these ranchers because they have lived in that environment and raised cattle successfully in it for most or all of their lives.
Let's all take the time to say thanks for the weather that we have had here and pray for those that are trying to come back from this devastating storm. May God grant them the ability to continue their life's work even after this storm. AMEN
Until next time, remember.......Beef, It's What's for Dinner!