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Honored Advisor

Hearing of some huge losses

In Western South Dakota of cattle dying in the blizzard of wet heavy snow. 3 to 4 feet and up to 90% losses in some isolated areas and herds.

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5 Replies
Senior Advisor

Re: Hearing of some huge losses

Any idea of the nature of the losses?  I mean what is killing them?  I figured cattle in that part of the country were cold seasoned cattle and could with stand the weather.  Possible to much to soon and the cattle men were caught with their pants down so to speak.

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Re: Hearing of some huge losses

There was up to 12 hours of rain in some parts so the cattle were soaked and then the snow and cold came, according to one rancher.


"Cammack said cattle were soaked by 12 hours of rain early in the storm, so many were unable to survive an additional 48 hours of snow and winds up to 60 mph.

 "It's the worst early season snowstorm I've seen in my lifetime," said Cammack, 60."



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Re: Hearing of some huge losses

From what I have been told from friends in that area, these cattle did not have a long hair coat as of yet. So they got soaked from the rain and wet heavy snow. Then snow and winds came and the herds scattered. Some went into ravens to get out of the wind, but the were full of water and snow. So some decided to move and with all the snow they spent a ton of energy walking through 3-4 feet of snow. And of course with that much snow they could not find grass to eat. So a wet animal in deep snow without the ability to find feed and they are expending energy in huge amounts..... either froze, straved or get just expended all the energy they had. The pictures I saw do not do it justice as I've been told. I've heard over 100,000 head have perished. 

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Senior Contributor

Re: Hearing of some huge losses

Shaggy, not too many years ago, we had a freak blizzard that caused cattle losses around here (but it looks like the one that hit this year was worse).  
It was as bad a set of circumstances as you could get, for cattle.

It was early in the season.  Around here, 'summer grazing' usually goes from May 10 to Oct 10, (some guys go May 15 to Oct 15, but the jist is still the same).   Using those dates, the cows were still in 'summer pasture', and not in their winter grazing areas, where most ranchers have some sort of shelters set up to protect them.

Secondly, was the rain.  Same deal as here, the rain wets them to the skin, and chlls them, the same way wet clothes don't keep you warm.   Add to the fact, just a matter of days before the blizzard, it was 80+ degrees out, and there was little to no conditioning for the cold, the winter coats were at most just starting to grow in.

Then, factor the winds.  Winds and blowing snow confused the cattle.   If they don't have shelter, or for some reason leave shelter, they get disoriented, and wander around, looking for food/shelter.   If they don't find it, they wander until they get stuck in a corner somewhere, with no-where to go (or wandering in circles, never reaching shelter - same result).   Then, they either mill around until they have no energy left, then they collapse, and get buried in snow, and suffocate.   Or, they get panicked from the storm, run around and overexert themselves, and all that huffing and puffing causes them to suck snowflakes into their lungs.   Once that happens, it is only a matter of time before they die.  That is what got about 10% of our calves one year.   While they were in a pasture with mama, the storm came up quickly from nowhere, and some calves were caught in the open.   I think the snow blinded them, and they ran around bawling for mama, and some sucked in enough snow, they got pneumonia and died from it.   Some were dead on the spot, others took maybe a week to die.   Nothing like taking calves to the vet, only to have him tell you there is nothing that can be done to save them.   The mature cows knew enough to stay where they could find shelter, and the little calves that usually stuck close to mama, all were OK, as well.  Our losses were all big calves, almost ready to wean, who would venture out on their own more (and, coincidentally, were worth the most at the time, LOL)
Trust me, I can really feel for those guys.

Really, there wasn't much that could be done, there was just too much snow, in too severe of a storm, when the cattle were not acclimated to the cold.


Some  pics of just how much snow there was, are posted on the Weather Channel, click the arrows to see more photos.

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Senior Contributor

Re: Hearing of some huge losses

Really rough. So odd so early in the season.


USDA semi annual inveentory was elinimated.

Unrelated to above #s must be way down.


Feeder futures hot a ll time highs wk ago, my theory is the same, we have  a shortage

of calves, feeders. beed demand may have faultered some but it is still think.


I think we are + 20 vs june, am sure it is hard for feedlots to lay out the $ at these prices

but alt?

4$ corn helps.

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