A record-setting blizzard occurred in the Midwest last week and went mostly unnoticed in light of the news of the government shutdown and debt ceiling debate. Tens of thousands of cattle were killed in a storm that could become one of the state’s most costly in history. Some homes were without power for over a week.
“This is absolutely, totally devastating,” said rancher Steve Schell of Montana. “This is horrendous. I mean the death loss of these cows in this country is unbelievable.” Schell reportedly lost half his herd and was still searching for snow-bound cattle.
Trails of carcasses have been found, like scenes from some sort of mass extinction. Locals can’t remember when they’ve seen anything like this sort of devastation. Ranchers weren’t prepared and hadn’t moved their livestock indoors. Hundreds of horses were killed because they hadn’t yet grown their winter coats.
Some estimates claim that as many as 5% of the 1.5 million cattle in Western South Dakota are dead, with some even claiming higher. The federal government normally has assistance plans for events like this, but due to the furlough, there are no agents to discuss the matters with.
Before the federal matter, the state will have to deal locally with carcass disposal in order to avoid the spread of disease. Ranchers will initially need to get out on their own and dispose of the bodies, but the local governments are stepping in to help with coordination of carcass removal.