Cattle death toll from South Dakota blizzard to climb to 20,000

Storm produced as much as 4 feet of snow

Cattle deaths from a blizzard that began two weeks ago are expected to rise as to many as 20,000.

The deaths based on voluntary reports reached 7,314 today, compared with about 6,000 on Oct. 15, Mendel Miller, the assistant state veterinarian, said in a telephone interview from Pierre, South Dakota. The South Dakota Animal Industry Board estimates about 20,000 cattle were lost from the storm.

In the Black Hills region between Oct. 3-Oct. 5, an unseasonably early storm produced as much as 4 feet (1.2 meters) of snow, which was deadly for cattle who still lacked their winter fur, Jodie Anderson, the executive director of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, said on Oct. 15.

“At 20,000 head, the losses are clearly significant and tragic for the ranchers involved, but not so much for the feeder-cattle market as a whole, although any losses are unwelcome right now due to the tight supplies,” Doug Houghton, a Brock Associates analyst in Milwaukee, said in an e-mail.

South Dakota had the nation’s sixth largest herd in January at 3.85 million head, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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