The government shutdown, a freak blizzard and piles of dead cattle in South Dakota have certainly made October 2013 a month not easily forgotten.
Reports I've heard suggest some ranchers have lost 20% to 50% of their cows to the blizzard. In total, nearly 60,000 cattle are lost, unaccounted for, or possibly dead. While these numbers only make up about 1.5% of South Dakota's entire cowherd, about 3.85 million head, it's a big hit for the nation's sixth-largest cattle-producing state and devastating to those who lost their animals.
There's been a lot of attention on this disaster since news of the losses hit the media earlier this week. Heart-wrenching images like these have been shared across social media networks, spurring many to find ways to help those ranchers affected by the storm.
One group that has stepped up to help out their fellow ranchers is the Black Hills Area Community Foundation (BHACF). BHACF has joined with the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association to establish the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund. Money collected through this initiative will provide support and relief assistance to the farmers and ranchers impacted by the early October blizzard.
If you would like to help fund this effort that will directly benefit those livestock producers hardest hit by the storm, please visit BHACF's website to learn how to donate. You can also keep up with what is happening with the SD Rancher Relief Fund on the initiative's Facebook page found here.
In the short term, the best thing we can do is to lend a hand to our fellow stewards of the land and help them get back on their feet. The losses incurred from this blizzard will be felt for months, maybe even years, as some ranchers have lost a significant portion of their assets. I encourage you to do what you can to help those affected.
In the long term, given our current governmental state, it may be a good idea for those who plan on sticking around in this industry to start thinking of ways to manage risks that come with the territory and which don't require reliance on an unstable and uncertain authority to bail us out of mishaps.
Times are tough and sometimes it seems ranching is tougher, but from my observations the diligent planners who manage their risk and maintain their business sovereignty will be better off in the future it appears our country is headed for.