I was at Bible study this morning, and the ladies there were confused about some of the reasons ranchers were hit so badly by last weekend's storm in South Dakota. They raised some really good points so for those of you who aren’t producers and may not understand why the storm caught so many off guard there are some interesting variables that weighed against producers:
You may have heard people talk about winter and summer pasture. Yes, they are two different things. Winter pasture is usually rough terrain with canyons and trees. This is really great for livestock because they can tuck themselves up under a ledge and out of the storm. They can keep themselves safe. However, many folks haven’t moved their cattle to winter pasture yet. Quite a few people still had their livestock out on summer pasture. Summer pasture is many times a flat hay field with only one or two rolling hills in it and doesn't provide much in the way of any trees or shelter.
God made animals so amazingly, they grow a heavy winter coat. We’ve had ninety degree days within the last month so no livestock has thickened cover by any means. They just weren’t ready.
The ladies also asked what happened to the cows. Did they stand there and just get cold? Well that could be the case. More likely though, the cows bunched up and traveled to get out of the storm. Many came to fences (put into place by ranchers for many important reasons) and when they couldn’t escape the fences they were enveloped by mounds of snow and eventually became part of the snow drifts. Other livestock did get past fences and continued to travel. They traveled so far that they literally walked themselves into the ground.
There are other variables as well. This was a massive blizzard and people weren’t expecting it. But I did want to answer some of these frequently asked questions.
For you who are producers, this is a great time for the conversation to be opened up so that we can let people know about our industry and truly “AGvocate.” If you aren’t one of the busy ones helping to clean up and working to get your feet back under you, then be an agvocator. No one else is going to be our voice, we have to speak for ourselves!