20130925_143219There 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.

Cattle losses on Cherry Creek.

Rapid City Journal : Tens-of-thousands of Cattle Killed…

Bismarck Tribune article

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.

KOTA Territory News

MSN.COM Article

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


27 thoughts on “Death

  1. Rebecca Kutcher

    My heart goes out to you and everyone affected by this storm. We used to have cattle and horses on our farm, so I understand a little the feelings involved. The sheer numbers are more than I can comprehend and I was a farm wife.

    Thank you for explaining this for everyone to understand – even a little.

    Bless you all and adding everyone to my prayers.

  2. Judy Sue Fanning Johnson

    Excellent post!! Been wondering how you fared! I am between Sentinel Butte and Medora, we didn’t receive a raindrop or snowflake from the storm. Hurts my heart to know how many have been hit so hard by the storm.

  3. Casey miller

    Wonderful words from the heart really puts it in perspective. And I am truly sorry for ur losses. It is so true animals and crops it really is everyones devastation but those who live it more so. My heart goes out to each and every family.

  4. Amy Pravecek

    Thank you so much for this post!! We have created a FB Page called South Dakota Cattle Locator to help create a central location for ranchers who have lost cattle & for those who have found cattle, to help get them to their homes. If you could please share this information it would be greatly appreciated!! Thank you!!

  5. Janet

    Very heartbreaking to see all of this. I understand it on a much simpler level. We have a small backyard farm in NJ. You do what you can for the animals before the storm and pray that they are safe. Although we were hard-hit by Superstorm Sandy – our animals fared well. Again – heartfelt thoughts go out to all those affected.
    Liberty Corner , NJ

    1. Ranch Wife Post author

      Thanks Janet. Like I told Diane, I will take our blizzards and snow any day over your hurricanes and super storms. The devastation you suffered there was felt by all of us out here, as well. Thanks for your thoughts. Have a great week.

  6. Diane Van Staalduinen

    I sat here crying as I read this… remembering how horrible SD Blizzards can be and am praying for all those affected by them. This is so heart-wrenching and sad for so many. In our area, hurricanes, nor’easter s and tornado’s devastate and the occasional snow is celebrated by nearly everyone but me 🙂 but this kind of snowstorm is unimaginable for most. I pray these ranch families are given comfort and all the support and aide they deserve. I know from living among them, they will not just survive but thrive! Blessings to all of you!!! Please share our love from the eastern side of the nation!

    1. Ranch Wife Post author

      Diane– I will take the snow and blizzard any day over your hurricanes. I, too, pray for all these families. Thanks so much for your comments… and your love and understanding. Very appreciated.

  7. acountrycouple

    My heart breaks for everyone involved. We worked and lived on ranches in caputa and sturgis area for a few years. We are VERY VERY saddened. Our prayers are going out fervently!!! You did an amazing job on your post of really helping people who don’t live in the area or ranch to understand what is going on.

  8. Sherry Gillis

    I am sorry to hear that you and those around you are suffering so tremendously. I will pray for all of you. Put one foot in front of the other and walk through this, remembering to breathe. This too shall pass.

    1. Ranch Wife Post author

      Sherry– We were abundantly blessed and have no losses that we have seen. We were at the beginning of the storm and it just gained strength as it traveled east. Pray for all those suffering, please. They will need it.

  9. Tina Abrahamson

    My heart breaks reading this and seeing the images. I am located right outside of Rapid City. I have family in SW ND and we’ve been without power for 6 days, without water for 5. No livestock but family does have livestock and crops. So yes, I do understand the pain. My heart goes out to each and every family dealing with the losses. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this blog, I’ve shared it out. I hope others will also read this and share it from my fb page as well.

    ~Blessed Be

    1. Ranch Wife Post author

      Thanks, Tina. I think as many people as possible need to know about the devastation, and “feel” the emotion everyone is suffering. Sure hope they get your power on. A hot shower in your own home will feel like heaven for you, I’m sure. God bless.

  10. Carolina

    Very sorry for your loss, read the links you provided and my heart breaks for you and your fellow ranchers.

  11. Lea Huelskamp

    If there is anything at all- any help you know someone needs, please call. Lea 605 721 2485. Very good article. I am heartbroken over the whole situation.

  12. Julie

    Just know that we in ND are praying for all of you effected. Just seeing this on tv made me cry. I couldn’t watch as a family was pulling them out of a lake where so many had drowned. This is heartbreaking.
    We too farm and ranch and the 4 day blizzard we had years ago killed just a small amount of our herd and you feel the loss for years.
    What really upsets a lot of us is that the only way everyone is finding out about this is through social media. We hope congress gets their act together so you can be compensated for the losses you all have.

    1. Ranch Wife Post author

      Thanks, Julie. I hope others are reading the comments on here and seeing all those who are praying for them. The losses are devastating and will be felt for many years. I’m sorry to hear of your past loss, as well. I see a few stories are finally making national news. If this was a storm in a highly populated area that is all we would hear about for weeks. Frustrating.

  13. Pingback: South Dakota Blizzard leaves devastation for ranchers | Agriculture Proud

  14. SDMitchell

    Ranch wife. know what you are going through. Our hearts go out to those who lost their lively hood. This is just as devistating as the summer of 2012 in Montana when neighbors lost livestock, some homes, buildings, equipment to fires.


Leave a Reply to Ranch Wife Cancel reply