There is nothing harder to deal with than death. It is so final. So heartbreaking. Having to say goodbye to your friends and loved ones tears your heart out. But so often we only think of that heartbreak when it applies to people dying, not animals. When you have pets, or make a living in agriculture, the death of your animals is heartbreaking, too. People often associate farming and ranching with blue skies, green grass, blooming fields of hay, sky-high crops, fat and friendly animals, but there is so much more to our life then sunshine and roses. The storm this past weekend was not sunshine and roses for so many. The losses are catastrophic… and they aren’t just livestock.
Farmers waiting to chop corn now find that there is too much snow still in their corn field to get in to get their corn chopped. When the snow leaves there will be too much mud to get in to the fields. Their options now stand at waiting for a freeze to combine the corn. However, silage corn and corn for combining are two different corn types. The comment from one of the wives “I guess we will see. We will have to take our losses and move on. There is not another choice.” There are fields of sunflowers in the south central part of the state that are filled with dead cows. In order to get the cows out of there they have to tear up their muddy fields with tractors and equipment… thus ruining their harvest, too. It is a double whammy.
One neighbor in our community lost a shed to fire in the middle of the first night of the snow. Another family in a neighboring community lost their entire house to fire during the blizzard when the fire trucks were unable to reach their home. The utility companies are working night and day trying to get everyone back with power and telephones. My nephew works for one of these electric cooperatives. The hateful calls his wife has received from people still without power is sickening. There is only so much everyone can do.
Then there are the livestock pictures piling in. I sat last night and cried reading emails from my friends and family telling about the loss that surrounds them. I cried looking at the pictures of all the death. Nope— it isn’t people. That is a huge blessing. But it is the animals that are part of these people’s lives. It is the pony that taught many kids to ride. It is the cattle and calves that you thought would be fine right where they were at and not trailing them for miles only to trail them back in a couple of days thus stirring everything up. It is the calves, lambs, and colts that you watched grow all summer and watched their personalities grow with them.
One rancher stated how hard it was to see three generations of death— the cow, the calf at her side ready to be sold, and the unborn calf she is carrying that would have been born next spring. What many outside of agriculture don’t realize is that many ranchers get one true paycheck per year… when they sell their calves. For people like us that calve in the spring and sell their calves in the fall this means that usually October / November is the fall run when a lot of us sell our calves. Matter of fact, we will sell our calves in a couple of weeks. We have small checks here and there like when we sell some open (not bred) cows in the fall, or when we sell some dry (have lost their calves and are no longer milking) cows in the spring/summer, or a crippled cow, calf, or bull here and there. However, the lion’s share of our yearly income comes when we sell our calves.
My heart hurts for all of those that have lost so much… cows, calves, sheep, lambs, horses, colts, crops, buildings, equipment. Each loss is heartbreaking. Each loss has a financial impact. Each loss makes you question the decisions you made prior to the storm and what you could have done differently. Each loss brings more hurt and more work as you clean up the aftermath. Silvia Christen, Executive Director for the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, says ranchers are reporting to her that they’ve lost 20 to 50% of their cattle herds. The numbers of losses are totaling in the 10’s of thousands. Agriculture is a major industry in South Dakota. These losses will effect everyone.
I am posting links to some pictures and some articles. WARNING: Many of these pictures are NOT for the faint of heart. However, if you do look at them take the emotion you are feeling as a bystander and multiply it infinitely for those suffering the loss. You may get a better idea of what they are feeling.
Facebook post by Grand Electric Cooperative: STORM UPDATE: We have found over 2,300 broken poles as of Monday evening. Our aerial survey of the damage will be complete by Wednesday night. Areas from Shadehill to Highway 212 along Highway 73 and west to Reva were the most severely impacted by this storm. Office personnel are available from 7:00am-7:00pm to answer phones and questions. Our outside crews are working from 6:30am-8:00pm. We currently have nearly 100 crew members assisting with restoration efforts.
A post from my friend, Maxine: There sure are times when words cannot describe how deeply felt our feelings are. “Thank you” does not cover the gratitude we feel when our lights come on. “Thank you, God” does not cover the gratitude we feel when we find our livestock and a 34 year old horse still alive and kicking. “I’m so sorry” doesn’t cover the heartache and hurt for the ranchers and others facing such devastation. I hope our prayers help.
Please… continue to PRAY.
Until next time– JARW