Imagine your livelihood slipping away one inch of snow at a time.
For hundreds of South Dakota ranchers, that nightmare is a reality.
Ag Reporter Sarah Gustin takes you to South Dakota where no matter how much a rancher prepared, there was no stopping mother nature.
The sun is finally shining and the snowbanks melting on these acres of destruction and devastation.
But, the heartaches remain.
(Mike Maher / Isabel, South Dakota Rancher) "I think it was hypothermia and being wet because a few days ahead of that it was 70 and 80 degrees. These cows just haven't haired up yet."
Mike Maher ranches southwest of Isabel, South Dakota.
Maher says he's never experienced a fall storm like this.
Maher says last weekend's snow storm claimed about 5% of his herd--mainly cows.
(Mike Maher / Isabel, South Dakota Rancher) "We lost the factory. That's what it was. The factory."
(Sarah Gustin / email@example.com) "Maher says this group of heifers drifted three miles before coming to a stop. The wind carried them. He says they went over fences, under fences, anyway they could get through."
Scott Vance is the co-owner of Faith Livestock.
He says typically between 75,000 and 90,000 head come through the barn every year.
He's expecting that number to be down this fall.
(Scott Vance / Faith Livestock) "This is the second storm we have weathered this year. We had the drought last year all the way up to the middle of May and people selling down and not being able to hang on to replacements that were getting sold. Finally we had the people that had the cattle, had the market, they had the weights. The dollars were there they were going to start to retain and rebuild, and that's just all gone."
These losses aren't just cows, they are farm assets.
No farm bill means no government assistance for losses like these.
And a herd can't be replaced over night.
(Scott Vance / Faith Livestock) "It's their livelihood, that's what they do out here is raise cattle and ranch. We have some farming and some other infrastructure, but 99.9% of this income is out of ranching and cattle."
Ryan Maher is a South Dakota Senator.
Maher has been fielding phone calls from producers everyday.
He says the governor and other government officials are flying over this area today to assess the losses.
(Ryan Maher / SD Senator, District 28 (R)) "We are waiting on a Farm Bill. I think it's in the House Version they have a livestock indemnity program. I think that's at 65%, The Senate Version is at 75%, with the LIP program. Somehow at some point in time those are going to have to be mirrored together, get to the president's desk and then on to the producers so it's going to be awhile. And I am afraid like a lot of things in the federal government it might be a little too late."
A check many producers, can't hold out for.
Jodie Anderson is the Executive Director of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association.
Anderson says this is the worst storm in terms of livestock losses for South Dakota.
She says current estimates are at least 20-thousand cows are reported dead.
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