Losing Without Warning

Full disclosure time: I'm from the east. The west operates on a scale that seems kind of foreign to me. Eastern sizes are in the tens, and western sizes - from miles to head of cattle to acreage - run in the hundreds. My father-in-law is from the west, though, and when we were on a road trip together once, traveling from the west into Colorado, he said that he always got stressed out coming so far east. That was when we were hitting Idaho. So the foreign flavor goes both ways. When tragedy strikes on the western scale, it occurs on that larger western scale. When a storm hit South Dakota early this October, an estimated twenty thousand head of cattle died. It might even have been more; estimates are still coming in. The storm hit harder than expected, preceded by rains, early in the year, without much warning. Herds were still on summer pasture, which isn't unusual for this time of year. It can take a week or more to move them all to winter pasture, so by the time the weather hit, it was already too late to move them to winter pasture. For a rancher's perspective on the storm and answers to how so many cattle could have been impacted, we highly recommend reading this blog post. Not only were cattle struck down, but ranchers were struck hard. The herds they work so hard to raise and feed and protect were reduced by 10-20 percent. This loss is on a scale that's hard to fathom. The state is tied for 6th in the nation in cattle numbers: 3.85 million this year. Now, news rep

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3 thoughts on “Losing Without Warning

  1. Numbers are unknown – particularly given the government shutdown during the tragedy, we will have to wait till all ranchers report losses (if they do). I believe those hit were primarily in western South Dakota. I have even heard reports of up to 50% of individual herds lost.

    And don’t forget about the horses. Those numbers may never truly be known.

  2. Help me understand your math. 10 to 20% of 3.85 million head is different from the reported cattle death loss due to the Atlas storm.

    1. You’re right Carl, the numbers don’t make sense. We picked up the 10-20% numbers from the news reports, and then from our own curiosity, we checked out how many cattle are in the state according to U.S. census numbers. Right now some reports of losses are coming in at 30,000, and others are saying that some individual ranchers have lost 10-20% of their herds. I’m sure it will be some time before the exact magnitude of the loss is understood. We changed the article to note where we got the information.

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