SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Western South Dakota ranchers are reeling from the loss of tens of thousands of cattle in last weekend's blizzard, and many will dispose of carcasses in pits set to open today.
Rancher Heath Ferguson said the storm killed 96 of his herd of 100 black Angus and Limousin cattle, a hit worth about $250,000. He said total losses topped more than 1,000 head, as six other herds were roaming the family's 16,000 acres near Sturgis.
Up to 4 feet of snow fell in the Black Hills area last weekend. Reports of 20 or more inches of snow were common, and 21½ inches in Rapid City were a record for both a 24-hour period in October and the entire month. At least two deaths were attributed to the storm, and it took a particularly heavy toll on livestock.
Ferguson said the vast majority of ranchers don't have insurance covering storm-related damage.
"It's cost-prohibitive for a producer," he told the Associated Press on Sunday. "Unless you're a really big operator, you can't afford to pay for the insurance."
Cattle ranchers dealing with weather-related losses would typically turn to the federal Livestock Indemnity Program, but that farm bill provision has expired.
The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association estimates that western South Dakota lost at least 5 percent of its cattle, much of which are raised for slaughter.