About this time last year, ranchers in South Dakota thought they were prepared for an early season snow storm that was on its way. But they soon found out they weren’t.
The storm dumped an unexpected amount of snow on livestock still in summer pastures, still wet from recent fall rains and still only insulated with summer coats.
That storm killed tens of thousands of livestock, mostly in South Dakota. Many ranchers didn’t know the extent of the damage to their herds for a few days because they couldn’t get to them on the ground. Those who were lucky enough to secure aerial views of their pastures came back to the ground with a sickening, real picture of what the next few years would entail in rebuilding their herds.
It was national news — pictures and video footage of cattle carcasses littering riverbeds, pastures and ravines.
Last year, Agweek profiled Richard Papousek, a Quinn, S.D., rancher who lost almost 300 head of cattle in the blizzard. The poignant cover photo of the Oct. 21, 2013, issue of Agweek showed a solemn Papousek with a ravine full of dead cattle in the background.
The storm impacted the agriculture industry far beyond its destructive borders.
The loss of livelihood helped shape disaster recovery programs in the federal farm bill. And the sheer devastation touched hearts of ranching families around the country, who donated money and animals to help in the recovery effort.
The Oct. 6 issue of Agweek will revisit Papousek and others affected by the storm to see how their recovery efforts are progressing a year later.
It’s an industry of resilient people, but the scars are still there.
Join us as we retell stories of survival and recovery. Pick up an Oct. 6 Agweek.