Washington ranchers are raising funds to help a South Dakota family that lost more than 1,300 cattle and calves in a surprise blizzard early last fall.
So far, the ranchers have raised roughly $33,000.
“When that storm hit, there was no way to really combat it — they were unprotected,” said Marty Stingley, president of Washington Cattlewomen.
Most livestock were still in summer pastures instead of winter pastures with more protection against the weather, said Jodie Anderson, executive director of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.
In many places, several inches of rain preceded the heavy, wet snow. The animals didn’t have their winter coats yet, so they were vulnerable to the blizzard, Anderson said.
Anderson said the Ranchers’ Relief Fund has received reports of roughly 43,000 livestock losses — primarily cattle, but including horses and sheep.
The cattlemen’s association, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association and South Dakota Sheep Growers Association established the relief fund. It has disbursed more than $4 million to ranchers in need. The relief fund is one of many efforts, Anderson said.
“The outpouring of support we’ve had has been phenomenal,” she said. “These folks lost a lot, but it’s been awesome to be part of an industry that supports their own like this one does.”
The Kittitas County group opted to help a particular family instead of contributing to a relief fund, Sam Kayser, president of the Kittitas County Cattlemen’s Association, said.
Kayser said the family planned to ship 340 calves in 10 days. Only 40 survived the storm. Their cow herd was also decimated.
“The storm struck on a Friday and they couldn’t go out of the house until Monday,” he said. “For eight days straight, all they did was bury cattle. They buried more than 1,300 of them.”
Stingley said many ranchers could sympathize with the tragedy.
“I think that hit home with everybody, knowing how that would impact us all,” she said.
Kayser’s organization initially raised $2,000, and then decided to raise more. Events included raising more than $20,000 at the Kittitas County association’s annual banquet in February. Kayser expects to receive donations from other county associations.
“When we originally started, we thought if we could send between $5,000 and $7,000 it would be a success,” Kayser said.
He recommends Washington ranchers contact the Washington State Cattlemen’s Association to make a donation.
Kayser expects to raise more than $35,000. He plans to send the money by the end of March.
Rancher’s Relief Fund: www.ranchersrelief.org
Washington Cattlemen’s Association: www.washingtoncattlemen.org