Horse Health

South Dakota Blizzard Kills Thousands of Cows ; How About Wild Horses in Long Term Holding?


“Americans Left in the Cold Over Status of Captured Wild Horses in BLM Concentration Camps”

Click Image to View Video at CNN

Click Image to View Video at CNN

(CNN) — Like in a scene from an apocalyptic parable, dark carcasses of cows and steers lie motionless in silent clusters across swaths of South Dakota.

An early blizzard caught ranchers off guard this week in the state, killing as many as 20,000 head of cattle, a state official says.

But ranchers say they are the real victims.

The storm left many of them in ruins, and now Washington is leaving them out in the cold.

“With the government shutdown and no farm bill in place, we need South Dakotans to help their neighbors,” Gov. Dennis Daugaard said.

This year’s federal farm legislation got hung up in Congress before the shutdown. There’s no money to help the ranchers, and Daugaard is asking for donations.

5 crazy side effects from the shutdown

Carcass fields

South Dakota’s civil air patrol did flyovers to take pictures of whole herds that keeled over together, dotting the gaping, snow-covered flatlands with big, black blotches.

Ranchers who thought they were doing the right thing were blindsided, said state veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven. Now they are dazed by their losses.

“The smart thing to do this time of year is to have cows and calf off to pasture,” he said. “Then the storm blew in. We’ve never seen anything quite like this.”

Oedekoven says he may never know the total number of livestock killed. South Dakota has asked ranchers to make lists of the animals they lost to help with the tally.

“It will be two weeks to a month before we have a better idea of the impact,” Oedekoven said.

Pentagon strikes deal with charity to pay military death benefits

Trouble ahead

Only 2,000 have been confirmed dead so far, but crews are out removing more dead cattle blocking roads, where they fell over in their tracks.

The state has told drivers to watch out.

“Motorists must be aware that livestock carcasses or stray livestock may be present on or along the roadways at any time,” the emergency management agency said in a statement.

Herds of livestock still alive are wandering aimlessly far from home.

“We have misplaced cattle everywhere,” Oedekoven said. “The storm blew them 10 miles or more from where they are normally pastured.”

The blizzard didn’t necessarily dole out fate justly, rewarding the prudent and punishing the lax, he said.

“Some people were very well prepared and lost 50% of their herd. Some were not prepared and took no losses. There was no rhyme or reason to it. Some ranchers lost everything.”

The state has issued ranchers a final, grim and expensive chore to take care of on top of their losses. They must dispose of the carcasses quickly, before they rot, and in accordance with regulations.

The ranchers can pay a factory to render them.

Or they can burn them themselves, or dig large pits at least four feet deep and bury them by the hundreds.

32 replies »

  1. Not to be mean because I love all animals…….. one can’t help but wonder if Karma might be biting back since cattle ranchers want all the wild horses removed from public lands so that they can lease it for the cattle


  2. Not quite sure why ranchers expect to be bailed out by taxpayers. Isn’t that called corporate welfare?

    And isn’t “freak weather” something farmers and ranchers learn to prepare for — and have insurance to cover and savings to offset losses — from the day they are born on the land they inherit from their forefathers?

    Are they willing for their tax money to help inner-city folks who have lost their jobs in the economoic meltdown caused by greedy, corrupt banksters?

    Furthermore, are they doing the environment any favors by cutting down forests for grazing land, wiping out wetlands and prairies for feed crops, using large amounts of water to quench the cows’ thirst?

    Of equal importance, do they feel sympathy for the cows they breed then send off to a barren feedlot and a merciless death in the execution chamber called a slaughterhouse?

    When oh when oh when are we going to wake up from our slothful, gluttonous dependence upon “meat” and recognize that eating protein directly from plants (instead of through the middlemen animals) is entirely feasible, healthier for humans, kind to the wild ones whose lives and land are stolen by ranchers and farmers, kind to unborn/unkilled cows, and the best way to curb the serious threat of climate change?

    I feel for the poor cows. But I freely admit that, were I a cow, I’d rather die in a cold snow blizzard than in a cold steel abattoir.


    • I don’t think you have a very realistic view of cattle ranching. The majority of ranchers did not inherit their ranches, they bought them and are probably mortgaged to the hilt just like most other small business owners. Ranching is not an easy way of life, its physically demanding, time intensive and unless you own a HUGE amount of land and cattle the payoff is NOT that great. I grew up in southern Colorado on a cattle ranch and I know personally that ranchers are as a whole wonderful stewards of the land. They HAVE to be or the land will not support their cattle.
      I am a vegetarian, I choose not to participate in the loss of ANY life for my sake. My shoes are of man made materials, etc and I do my utmost to NOT contribute to the death of any living thing. However the majority of humans don’t agree with me, and tend to love a big juicy steak on their plates. In a perfect world everyone would agree with ME 🙂 , but its not a perfect world and we need to be careful not to be judgemental of others’ ways. The slaughter of any living thing horrifies me, and all I can say is that most people are not going to join me in my vegetarianism, so I try to be an advocate for animals in any way that I can. Slaughter that is as humane as possible, etc. I’m sure the ranchers that lost their animals are devastated because of the loss of money but also because of the loss and suffering of the animals that they give great care to….


  3. I’m not crazy about ranchers taking subsidies for preventable losses, but as I understand it, most were completely unprepared for this blizzard, for it’s ‘sudden’ appearance or the amount of snowfall it produced: Much of the livestock perished because they hadn’t even started growing winter coats.

    However, I haven’t been able to find any information about Whitehorse, the long-term pasture facility in South Dakota. If any animal could survive a sudden blizzard, it might be wild horses. But nearly 400 pasture-bound geldings?


    • And another thousand of our wild horses are kept at Mission Ridge long-term holding in mid SD also – let us know what you find out, Lisa.


    • Yes, what about all the wild horses in BLM hell holding facilities in that area. Please advise us as to what you find out!


  4. Did these ranchers own million-acre farms where they couldn’t get their cattle in once they heard a weather report? I don’t understand how such a thing could happen. Was NO storm forecast?


  5. A storm was forecast but no one expected the intensity that it was. In my previous post I failed to mention that we need to ALL speak out against ANY horse slaughter, not only our beautiful wild horses but our domestic tamed horses as well. NO horse should be sent to slaughter…..


  6. When I was a kid I used to see the military do hay drops in states like this that was snow bound. I believe it was in the Dakotas. The mustangs that are left in this state probably made it because they still have their wild instincts to look for shelter and herd up together for warmth which the cows do not. The horses do what buffalo do in storms. All of the cows raised in the US are imports no matter how long they have been ranched, they have no wild instincts left.


  7. I am sorry to hear this, I don’t want animal to suffer…. Have to ask myself is this KARMA, not sure, but that was the first thing I thought of, I DO believe what goes around comes around eventually….. Please let us know about the horses out that way….. Thanks


  8. Whether a rancher inherits or purchases land, he goes into business with a desire to be independent. That means, to me, that he should not ask for or even accept subsidies. It also means, to me, that he who reap rewards in good times should be prepared to accept the risks in bad times. If a rancher cannot afford enough insurance to fully cover his losses in unforeseen circumstances, why is he in business in the first place? I find ranchers’ demand for special treatment unfair.

    Whether or not ranchers do their best to take care of the land, grazing large livestock and/or growing monoculture crops to feed that livestock is slowing killing this planet. I find that unethical.

    Whether or not they are good citizens, kind parents, devout church-goers, and hard workers, ranchers’ compassion does not extend to every innocent individual. Instead, they choose to earn a living by breeding, tending, then sending to their death millions of sentient, social, intelligent, affectionate, harmless fellow-beings. I find that violent and immoral.

    Whether or not they have and love horses, I do not hear the voices of many, if any, cattle ranchers being raised against public lands ranching, against unlawful wild horse and burro roundups and miserable holding pens, or against the ecological devastation that has been scientifically proven to be caused by raising livestock. According to a Worldwatch Institute report researched and written by experienced, objective experts in the field, at least 51% of climate change worldwide is due to this single industry!

    True, most humans find it acceptable to eat the flesh of cows (and other animals) and drink the milk that nature provides for their respective offspring.

    But the majority’s sentiment — and practice — must change. It is already starting to change, by degrees. It will change much faster if the biosphere collapses from human-induced pressures before most hearts and actions change.

    I feel it is my calling to help the change along before disaster strikes. My hopes and dreams may seem unrealistic. But if I avoid taking a public stand on this issue simply because most people don’t agree with me, then that makes me a quiet coward.

    In short, the livestock industry needs to go the way of the iceman — for everyone’s benefit. Everyone involved in agriculture deserves to find satisfying, rewarding, meaningful work that doesn’t kill nonhumans (and increasingly, the humans who eat them), that doesn’t hurt wild lands and wild life, that doesn’t further diminish the earth’s already severely depleted natural resources, and that doesn’t keep humanity forever mired in an eons-old, but destructive status quo.

    Those who don’t think cattle ranching has a devastating impact on this earth and that even the greenest enviros among us can continue to coast along with our thoughtless carnist customs should read some books written by objective thinkers/researchers/authors. Two I would recommend are:

    (1) Comfortably Unaware: global depletion and food responsibility … what you eat is killing our planet, by Dr. Richard A. Oppenlander

    (2) This is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology: How we Find our Way to a Humane and Environmentally Sane Future, by Will Anderson

    Please, I’m not being judgmental. I am trying to open the eyes and hearts and minds of consumers, whose insatiable, self-justifying demand for animal products keeps the powerful ranching industry in existence — and at the receiving end of favors from politicians who want to stay in office forever.

    And just think: when most humans think killing and eating cows is as unacceptable as killing and eating horses is to us, wild equines will be gloriously free to live on the land that is rightfully theirs.

    [Note: I realize other natural-resource-depleting, havoc-wreaking industries are also standing in the way of our dream for the wild horses, but the subject of this blog is the ranchers.]


    • The only point abour kharma any horse person made here was fueled ONLY by the selfish war Ag has belted horses with. No one wants animals to die, but God controls the weather conditions and he reads the GAO report too. So he knows the give and take. Besides these people have farm insurance And Farm Bureau. This is heartbreaking but its called life and sadly they get Government Assistance for these losses. Horse owners and breeders are just Out in the cold and NO government program assists them. So pardon me while i bow my head in homage to poor individualz who suffered losses and the animals that died or will die regardless of species. But dont think we dont care about the situation we help whoever we can even when it hurts, but they rarely look a horsemans way and their disregard for our industry our the horses pain is huge and unwarranted. For those who can and will assist i applaud you! For those who suffer i will pray for you, but understand each perspective as we understand yours.


  9. REWRITE OF AN UNCLEAR SENTENCE FROM ABOVE: Those who do not think cattle ranching has a devastating impact on this earth and who do think that even the greenest enviros among us can continue to coast along with our thoughtless carnist customs should read some books written by objective thinkers/researchers/authors. ~ BlessUsAll (and I do mean ALL!) 🙂


  10. In spite of how many of us feel about the cattle ranchers and in many cases, rightly so, it does sadden me to see such a loss of cattle and the impact it will have on so many lives. I too have a real concern as to the health and conditions of our wild horses held in holding pens. Did the storm effect them in any way and what condition are they in? Too many unanswered questions on so many issues, anymore. )-:


  11. Just a quick comment to those who have expressed such sympathy for the ranchers and their loss of livelihood: It is very difficult for reasonable people to side with those who kill healthy animals for profit. They may claim to “care” about these beings all they want – In the end, they have no regrets in separating mothers from sons and daughters, brothers from sisters and so on… They also don’t cry when they send the “stock” to the kill floor.

    Just as I would have no sorrow for the monetary loss of the slave-ship owners for the “units” that were lost at sea, all my tears are reserved for the innocent victims instead.


  12. Provoked….I couldn’t agree more. If we are going to lay blame on ranchers for providing meat to eat, we should also lay blame on those who EAT the meat that the ranchers provide. In my opinion as I stated earlier I am a vegetarian and my wish would be that NO ONE would eat the flesh of any other living being. Maybe someday that will happen. Now however the huge majority don’t care how that steak gets on their plate, they just care that it DOES get on their plate. I grew up in a ranching community and never did I see or hear of a rancher taking $ from the government for his losses. That’s not to say that a huge cattle company might not…

    If the horses were not penned up like they are they would have a good fighting chance of surviving a storm like this…but without shelter of any kind…trees, brush, whatever, they probably had a hard time of it. And the damn BLM should be held responsible and accountable. I believe there is a much bigger plan behind the removal of the horses from their land than ranchers wanting to graze. I think we need to look at our wonderful ‘government’ and try to discover just what they are up to….


  13. Karma or freak snow storm. I care about our wild horses and their situation is dire. We must protect as many as we can and give them back their land. I am so tired of hearing about the poor cows. Let us help our poor horses. They need so much help and protection. they need space to run and be horses. Be alive. Laws must be written to give our horses freedom now and forever. I know a lot of you feel the same way. Let us get this done, do it now. Stop horse transport, stop horse slaughter, stop the BLM from causing more tragedy for our horses.


  14. Here is a repost with some heartbreaking detail, all quoted: “Repost-Nanette Schieron> I was in South Dakota at the time of the storm last Friday and Saturday in Lantry South Dakota at International society for the protection of Mustangs and burrows. It was indeed a ferocious storm. Karen Sussman has 500 horses, four distinct Mustang herds . In one herd, the white sands herd, up to 50 foals yearlings several older horses were killed because of hypothermia. they were on unprotected prairie. Karen her helper jewel and Bobby, myself and two other friends of Karen’s worked frantically to save 10 horses and foals that were brought into the barn. That was all we could fit in the barn. We worked on them for over 8 hours and at the end of the night we were able to save 6. We just didn’t have enough help.. The next morning the field was littered with the muddy bodies of foals and yearlings. It looked like a war zone. It was heartbreaking to hear the mares calling for their babies. I just watched and wept. Karen said that in the 13 years that she has been caring for her Mustangs she has only had two deaths in a bad winter. Because of previous warm weather none of the horses had grown their winter coats. If they had there would have been fewer deaths for sure. When I left to go back home the road with Leonard with dead cows it was just terrible. I understand that they were 100,000 animals lost in South Dakota freak storm.”


  15. Growing up in the South Dakota, I am not surprised by this storm, yes in the last 20 years or so storms have gotten less severe-but any dakotaian knows that this kind of storm can happen at any storm-I believe ranchers have gotten LAZY-in the old days ranchers always brought cattle in close so they could get to them and keep them safe and fed-but now weather they die in a storm or are sent to slaughter the rancher now knows he will get his money-his compassion for his animal is gone. All animal stewards care about anymore is the bottom line(money) am I sorry for the cattle-you darn right because the people in charge of their care were negligent-am I sorry for the rancher-hell no because wether they inheritad the land or bought it, they should have cared enough about their animals to do what the Dakota weather has made ranchers do for generations-keep animals close in the winter-in my IMHO this was nothing but murder-by all the non caring lazy ranching business.THIS WAS NOT THE FIRST DAKOTA BLIZZARD AND IT WILL NOT BE THE LAST~~~~DISCUSTING


  16. This is tragic. It isn’t the 1950s anymore, weather forecasting has improved greatly, and this storm was reported. Why couldn’t they round up their cattle and bring them in closer to their ranches? Because they don’t care – the Congressman they own will take care of them.


  17. They probably move them to the Canada slaughter houses before the storm hit so they could make money and claim damages as well. After all SD does not recognize the BLM freeze brand so no one can prove if wild Mustangs are being sent to slaughter by way of SD. No telling how many will come up dead or missing in long term holding pens with the government shut down.


  18. We are awfully judgmental about people who raise food for people to eat for a living. People need food, and whether we want to admit it or not, meat is a more nutrient dense form of nutrition than plant food. It will take much more land and water to meet the nutritional needs of the population if all people abandoned meat eating and just ate vegetables. Most of the farmers I grew up around hee in the East take great pride in the way they raise their animals, and there is some sense of ambivalence toward understanding the nature of the business itself. In fact, most of the famers I know, pause for prayer to bless the food that they raised, before they site it. There is a reverence to them because they beliee that producing healthy, nutritious food for people to eat is honorable work. If anyone thinks that we will have farm animals living on the land if people were not able to make a living from raising them or were not able to harvest them for food to feed their families, there will be no farms. No cows, no pigs, no goats, no sheep, no horses—

    I think that this is a tragic event. The dead animals did not die instantly. They were cold, wet, and afraid. This has been described as a cold, WET, snow. Horses are protected from the cold through their coats and the increase in fat that most horses put on during the late summer and fall to protect them from the cold. Horses are not protected from very cold, wet snow. Wet coats are essentially useless no matter how thick they are.


  19. They don’t raise my food because I don’t eat beef. I do believe that farming is an honorable work, but I don’t think in today’s overpopulated world it is honorable anymore – from factory farms and especially dishonorable consumers. Of course you will find some small farmers, but that is quickly falling to history. But just think how afraid these animals are when they go to a slaughterhouse. That’s what I think of.


  20. I’ve read a number of comments about ‘karma’ and how maybe these people deserved what happened to them and I can’t believe what I am hearing. I am from South Dakota and you can’t believe the devastation that all of these people have been going through. Along with the cattle there were multitudes of other animals that died including thousands of horses. My friend, Karen Sussman, who is the president of the Interntional Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB), lost over 50 of their horses.


  21. One of my best friends lost 32 of his horses. It was the only time in my life that I have heard him actually crying. It wasn’t about money for him. It was about losing his retired horse, that he has had since college, and all of the others that meant so much to him. It was about losing his little girl’s horse that she loved with all of her heart.

    Besides horses, the amount of wildlife that died is not even known at this time. It affected everyone and everything. Where is the compassion for your fellow man? Where is the compassion for all of the animals that died? Instead of putting people down for what they do as a vocation, we should be trying to figure out how we can help .


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