“My buddy lost his best head horse,” the Cowboy says to me the other night, just shaking his head.
We’ve been praying for and thinking about all those out west left to work through the aftermath of one of South Dakota’s worst winter storms, I believe, ever. At least for this time of year.
I’ve got the national news on in the background as I sit down to get to work this morning .. and the local cut in just aired. The images coming out of Western South Dakota now in regard to the loss of livestock are just tragic .. and tough to see.
And it appears quite tough for South Dakota ranchers to know what’s ahead .. and how they’ll recover.
“One rather morbid story was that they could simply find their cattle by following the trail of dead carcasses,” Williams said.
An SDSU Extension Beef Specialist, Ken Olson said, “It’s devastating. I’ve had some tearful conversations. They’re having a hard time. Some of them know that it’s going to put them out of business. It’s very hard.”
Olson says the impacts of the storm are magnified because ranchers had already suffered through a drought that reduced the size of their herds and their bottom line.
But the damage caused by this storm goes far beyond economics. It hurts these ranch families on a deeply personal level.
“It’s personal. Yup, it’s personal,” Williams said.
Williams and other ranchers feel their losses one by one as they pick up the scattered carcasses. Some will be processed for byproducts, others buried or burned.
Williams said, “It’s a hard chore. And it’s only beginning.”
Officials are telling ranchers to carefully document their losses for possible financial assistance.But with most federal offices closed in the government shutdown, it’s unclear what help might come, and when.
My heart, along with so many others – I know .. goes out to the families facing so much loss. My heart and head right now however can’t stop imagining what those cattle, horses and other livestock lost must have been going through. The Cowboy just gives me the look at times, you know the one that many of us get, because we have such soft hearts for any animal. I slept outside one night earlier this fall to watch over one of our own steers who was sick and we were worried was too weak to perhaps even make it through the night. While he does everything he can always to take good care of our herd, he wasn’t sure why I slept outside or what I could further do about it from there versus the comfort of our own bed 50 feet away. I simply wanted to be there for him if he did pass or if there was some way I could help because personally, I would never want to go through it alone.
That being said, I can’t imagine the stress and fright these animals were going through this past weekend, wandering aimlessly through the storms and essentially getting stuck and freezing to death. The images, based off of what we’ve heard from friends and family out there, just keep playing through my head. Death at some point for us all is inevitable but we now know how we die makes an incredible difference in the entire experience, for those passing and for the rest of us as family. And these cattle in many ways, are part of these families lives and livelihoods.