THE BLOG
10/13/2013 01:11 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

About 75,000 Cattle Died in South Dakota's October 4th Blizzard

An estimated 75,000 cattle were killed in an under-reported early-season snowstorm that struck South Dakota on October 4th. News of the losses have slowly been percolating out.

KEVN TV in Rapid City S.D. headlined on October 7th, "Ranchers suffer serious losses in blizzard," and said that ranchers "found cattle huddled up along fence lines, along creek bottoms, and in road ditches, all dead. Silvia Christen with the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association says she has talked to ranchers who have lost 20% to 50% of their cattle." To make it worse, "there was a bitter statement from Senator Tim Johnson's office this morning that the losses come at the very time the USDA's Farm Service offices have been shut down. As a result, the Senator says, ranchers won't even be able to document their losses."

KEVN continued: "Thousands of carcasses will have to be disposed of in the coming days. Silvia Christen says, 'There's a health hazard with those animals laying out there in the ditches and they need to be picked up. We need to identify whose animals those are.' The blizzard killed huge numbers of cattle because of the unique nature of the storm. Ranchers say the heavy, wet snow stuck to the cattle's hair and made them soaking wet. Then, freezing temperatures and seventy-mile-an-hour winds chilled the animals until they died of exposure. Most of the cattle will be discovered and disposed of in the coming days, but some are probably buried under snow drifts, and won't be discovered until spring."

Here is the video of KEVN's report: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le4vc8Dd0x0

The Rapid City Journal bannered on October 8th, "Tens of Thousands of Cattle Killed in Friday's Blizzard," and reported: "'This is absolutely, totally devastating,' said Steve Schell, a 52-year-old rancher from Caputa. 'This is horrendous. I mean the death loss of these cows ... is unbelievable.' Schell said he estimated he had lost half of his herd, but it could be far more. He was still struggling to find snow-buried cattle and those that had been pushed miles by winds that gusted at 70 miles per hour on Friday night. Martha Wierzbicki, emergency management director for Butte County, said the trail of carcasses was a gruesome sight across the region. 'They're in the fence line, laying alongside the roads,' she said. 'It's really sickening.'"

Another report of this disaster appeared on Dawn Wink's blog. She said (accompanying her report with photos): "The worst blizzard in recorded history of South Dakota just swept through the state. Tens of thousands of cattle are predicted dead and the much of the state is still without power. ... The only reason I know this is because my parent's ranch ... lies in the storm's epicenter. Mom texted me after the storm."

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.