S.D. blizzard killed thousands of cattle
Two ranchers south of Chinook have pooled their resources to collect livestock donations for South Dakota ranchers whose cattle herds were ravaged by the blizzard that blew through the western side of the state a couple of weeks ago.
René Brown and Alisha Burcham said that they have pledges of eight animals so far after starting their group, Montana Ranchers Paying it Forward.
"We're just one branch of a large group of people around the country (taking donations)," Burcham said. "There are five groups in Montana alone."
Burcham said her and Browns' goal is to get 40 head of cattle together, as that is more or less what fits in a truckload, depending of the size of the cattle.
"The eight have come from local producers," Burcham said. "They can donate any kind of breeding stock from replacement heifers to bred cows."
The date the two ranchers are going to send the cattle off to South Dakota is Nov. 9, but Burcham said they will be taking pledges long after. She added that they will keep the website up past this year because the South Dakota ranchers will still need cattle in the spring.
"It you think about it, we're surrounded by at least 25 ranches," Burcham said. "If we all understood the good feelings that come from giving to those in need and if someone out there is willing to give, hopefully someday, if we're in that predicament, they will return the favor."
"We saw the damage Storm Atlas did and both of us couldn't help but think it could be us," Brown said. "Those people depend on (the cattle) for their livelihood. ... There's no back-up plan for them."
Burcham said if there is an overabundance of donations, they will make several trips.
"If we don't make the semi-load, we'll still take them down," Burcham said.
Those not wishing to or unable to donate livestock, but still wanting to help the cause may make a monetary donation at the Help For South Dakota website. These funds will go to paying for the fuel it takes to ship the animals to South Dakota.
According to an Associated Press article, South Dakota rancher Heath Ferguson said the storm killed 96 percent of his herd of 100 black Angus and Limousin cattle, a hit worth about $250,000. He said total losses topped more than 1,000 head, as six other herds were roaming the family's 16,000 acres east of Sturgis.
Storm Atlas gave the Black Hills area up to four feet of snow and reports of 20 or more inches were common, according to the article.
At least two human deaths were attributed to the storm and tens of thousands of cattle died, the article says.
"Our main goal is provide a little hope for these ranchers," Brown said.
Both Brown and Burcham live on ranches roughly 40 miles south of Chinook. Brown's husband runs the Diamond Bar Ranch and Burcham and her husband run the neighboring Birdtail Ranch
Those on the Hi-Line interested in Brown and Burchams' cause can visit their Facebook page, MRPIF - MT Ranchers Paying It Forward.