BEEF Editors' Blog

Donate Now To South Dakota's Rancher Relief Fund


The South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund has been established to provide assistance to livestock producers impacted by the storm.

There are few things more disappointing than potential unfulfilled, when the ring is pulled from your grasp on the cusp of finishing a task or realizing a goal. Plenty of folks in western South Dakota can relate to such disappointment following a disastrous winter storm named Atlas that pounded the area in early October.

The locale was just beginning to see some relief from prolonged drought, and weaning time wasn’t far off. The heavy rain that fell Oct. 3 was welcomed moisture. But then the temperature plunged, the wind picked up, and that rain turned to heavy snow.

The snow, propelled by 60-mph winds, caught cattle still on summer pastures. Driven by the heavy snow, livestock drifted with the wind and snow into fences and draws, where they were buried and suffocated.

When it was over, much of the area was out of power, and many livestock producers were in the dark regarding the location and condition of their livestock. Cattle, sheep and horses were spread across the countryside, commingled into groups of multiple owners. At press time, it was estimated that up to 75,000 head of cattle were lost in the storm.


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Following the storm, producers scrambled to check on their stock. Many found them in huddled bunches of buried deads. As Heather Hamilton-Maude, a July bride from Wyoming just beginning her new life with husband Charles in Scenic, SD, noted in BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly:

“There is no describing what goes through your mind when you come upon a pile of partially exposed animals that froze, suffocated or died of hypothermia. The challenge of mentally bracing yourself as you climb down off your horse and wade through deep snow to resolutely dig until you expose an ear tag is difficult. So is the sickness deep inside you as you wait to discover if the animal is one of yours. Never mind the gut-wrenching, almost physical pain when you discover it is your own.

“Of course, the relief that comes with discovering the dead animal isn’t one of yours is so overwhelming that it rocks you back on your heels. But you’re instantly overrun by shame and guilt, because it means some other rancher will feel the first, even worse, type of pain when they hear the bad news.”

The South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund has been established to provide assistance to livestock producers impacted by the storm. The fund will be administered by the Black Hills Area Community Foundation in cooperation with the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association. Give to the Rancher Relief Fund here or call 605-342-0429.


More Winter Storm Atlas information:

5 Resources For South Dakota Ranchers Hit By October Blizzard

Cattle Death Toll Rises As 'Atlas' Blizzard Recovery Continues

Relief Fund Established For South Dakota Ranchers

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

Early South Dakota Blizzard Leaves Thousands Of Cattle Dead

Ranchers Will Prevail After Winter Storm Atlas Devastates Cattle Herd

Discuss this Blog Entry 6

husker (not verified)
on Oct 23, 2013

It would be best for relief to come from grassroots efforts. That's the real america. The gvt only cares if it's politically expedient. I saw the pictures. Unbelievably tough situation!

Anonymous (not verified)
on Oct 23, 2013

Please Please Please include the whole name of the charity BHACF/SD Rancher Relief Fund because it is very hard to find on the web site given in the article. Or see if the site will give you a direct link to the Ranchers, I realize there are a lot of charities that need help but if you want to get the word out make it one click to find rather than having to search for the link, most people would like their hard earn dollars to go directly to those who need it.

on Oct 23, 2013

The direct link to the relief fund has been provided in the story above. It is

Anonymous (not verified)
on Oct 23, 2013

There has been at least one instance (Casper Star-Tribune) that has led readers to believe money donated to the Rancher-Relief fund would go only to members of South Dakota Stockgrowers or South Dakota Cattlemen's Association. Is this true?
While I have no problem with either organization, not everyone that lost cattle belong to either organization. I would like to know that my money went to anyone suffering loss of livestock, not just ones belonging to an organization. Thank you for clearing this up.

on Oct 24, 2013

The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association tells me that all producers affected by the storm are eligible for help via the Rancher Relief Fund, not just South Dakota producers. The phone number 605-342-0429.

Mark Mulhall (not verified)
on Oct 25, 2013

Congratulations to all who set up and contributed to this cause. You have the vision, wisdom and sense of community and Christian charity that the Tea Party knows nothing about. We're in it together.

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What's BEEF Editors' Blog?

Everyday musings from BEEF Editors on the latest beef industry news and events.


Burt Rutherford

Burt has more than 35 years of experience communicating about beef industry issues. A Colorado native and graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in agricultural journalism, he now works...

Wes Ishmael

Among the industry’s most insightful thinkers, Wes Ishmael concentrates on industry price and market perspectives for BEEF magazine. Along with his monthly “Cattle Economics” column...

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