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Consumer Outreach Needed After Winter Storm Atlas

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Some online commenters blame ranchers for cattle deaths due to winter storm Atlas.

The devastating loss of close to 100,000 head of cattle due to last weekend’s winter storm Atlas has finally reached the mainstream media. Many major news outlets have now reported on the violent storm that swept western South Dakota and the surrounding area. It’s unusual that anything happening in rural America makes the national news, so it’s much appreciated that the media is seeing the wide scope of the devastation and bringing awareness to the issues ranchers now face in moving forward after this tragic storm.

However, reading some of the online comments to that coverage isn't for the faint of heart. Some commenters contend that ranchers are rich, entitled and won’t feel the loss of these cattle anyway. They say the government gives us so many handouts that the losses will be compensated, or that the ranchers must not have cared much about their animals because so many died in the storm. They contend that the cattle should have been indoors to protect them from the storm. Ranching is a gamble, they say, so producers shouldn’t whine when things go wrong.

I am frustrated by this and see it as a slap in the face to all ranchers, but particularly those in my home state. My cousin is a veterinarian in western South Dakota where much of the devastation took place, and she says visiting her clients now is very difficult. She has heard stories of lost 4-H heifers, dead 15-year-old cows, and the boss cow that has been in the family “forever” that has gone missing. These cattle represent so much more than a financial loss; the emotional pain will endure for a long time.

 

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If you've seen negative comments toward producers on these online articles and wondered what to say,  I encourage you to check out the following blog post. It does an excellent job of answering all the accusations and questions in a way that tells the ranchers’ story.

The blogger, Jody Price Schobel, says it best when she wrote on Facebook, “Think about that thing that you love to do more than anything else. That thing you dream about doing. That thing that you just think you might not be able to go on if you couldn’t do it anymore. That thing that brings you joy and makes you smile just thinking about. Is it golf? Fishing? Football? Running? Maybe it’s your job? And what about that place you like to go to, that place where you feel most at home? Most yourself? The place you always wish you could always be at? Is it a cabin up north? Is it the top of ski hill? On the lake? In the woods? And then think about your grandparents house or maybe even your great grandparents house and all the memories that go with it. Ranching, for these people, is all of that. All of it. All of it wrapped up into one thing. It’s their family, their home, their history and future. It’s their lifestyle, their hobby and the essence of who they are. It’s not just a job or a paycheck. It’s who they are. It’s what they love.”

How would you respond to some of these negative comments online? What do you think is the most important lesson consumers should take home from this storm?

 

More Winter Storm Atlas Information:

5 Resources For South Dakota Ranchers Hit By October Blizzard

Cattle Death Toll Rises As 'Atlas' Blizzard Recovery Continues

Producers Should Document Livestock Losses

Rancher Details "Gut-Wrenching" Pain From Cattle Lost In SD Blizzard

Early South Dakota Blizzard Leaves Thousands Of Cattle Dead

Discuss this Blog Entry 10

on Oct 13, 2013

I've almost quit responding with facts and correct information to those in social media who spew the negative hs about agriculture and the people involved in it. It just has me wore completely out.

It amazes me just how disconnected so many folks are from real ag.

If nothing else social media shows us working in the ag business just how inept so much of the non-ag public is; allowing themselves to be so misinformed and misguided about something that is so important, food production.

on Oct 14, 2013

I agree. Amanda's reference to the above blog Pretty Work was very well done. It should be required reading by everyone who has very little if any knowledge of production agriculture. We are just preaching to the choir unless we can find a way to get our message to the uneducated masses. Meantime our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all of those devastated by the early October blizzard.

Jim Turner (not verified)
on Oct 14, 2013

I like your statement of "social media shows us working in the ag business just how inept of the non-ag public is".

I have spent nearly the last decade speaking at events and educating the world on social media. Yeah, I have been in it before it was called as such. We also must educate the ag business on how best to use social media to get their points across and to relay their message. This forum here is great and the blog posts that have been referenced by many are also great. We see what happens when the MSM gets the story we finally get a little traction. In many industries social media is driving the MSM. We as an industry have to get to that point. Great article Amanda.

DavVictor (not verified)
on Oct 14, 2013

Some of the comments I've read are appalling, some in fact were glad that these people lost their cattle. Either sick & heartless or simply people without real-life experience; maybe both.

Jenn (not verified)
on Oct 14, 2013

I think you have to choose your battles wisely. There are some people who you will never reach. They're too emotional. They'll pick apart your argument and find any hole you may have in it. Even if there are no holes. The commenter on my own blog is a prime example of that (http://thesouthdakotacowgirl.com/2013/10/how-can-you-help/). But there are those that can be reached and are open-minded. Don't argue with folks that choose to be ignorant. You're wasting your time. With a few swipes of the keyboard and click or two of the mouse, anyone these days can find out how cattle are raised, and how they might even spend a winter. I wrote a post on it, and I've shared videos on how cattle are cared for in the winter. It's not hard to do some research. Some folks are simply not interested in it. They like their sheltered lives and they're not who we need to reach. It's the people who are sincerely open-minded we should respond to.

on Oct 14, 2013

All the more reason that we need to get behind and support our Ag in the Classroom programs. I know Wyoming has a very good program as well as several other states in this region. It is amazing how many youngsters even in our more rural communities that are unaware of where their food really comes from.

DavVictor (not verified)
on Oct 14, 2013

I agree, but in many city situations (LA, Seattle, NY, Chicago -- for examples) it's nearly impossible to show kids what livestock are all about outside of having a hamster in a cage or a pet bunny. It's time consuming and off-season to actually raising or growing anything on a school property.

Maybe 2 weeks ago someone was posting on twitter an article about a school that was going to raise a few head of cattle and use that meat in the school cafeteria. I was pretty impressed that they were willing to go through the trouble. Loved the concept !

on Oct 14, 2013

If we could promote that concept, and the student body raised a large garden and finished some beef or hogs or lambs or raised fish or ???? it would change their whole outlook of getting out of bed in the morning.

Stewards of the land & animals (not verified)
on Oct 17, 2013

I remember raising hogs outdoors & not going to bed for 72 hours during storms, doing everything we could to take care of them. Knowing that when the storm was over we would have hours of work to do, removing snow, restoring feed, water & bedding supplies and preparing for the next storm or cold spell.

DC (not verified)
on Oct 16, 2013

I thought this lead story on NYT today might interest you folks:
"South Dakota Ranchers Face Storm’s Toll, but U.S.’ Helping Hands Are Tied"
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/16/us/as-south-dakota-ranchers-face-storm...
there is a pretty compelling slide show that is worth seeing.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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