April 19, 2014

Cattle killed in blizzard in NW Nebraska may reach 3,000

Livestock losses are still being tallied in far northwest Nebraska following the blizzard that dumped heavy, wet snow on the region the first weekend in October.

Melody Benjamin, spokeswoman for the Nebraska Cattlemen, says it’s difficult to get a solid number, though cattle deaths will likely be in the thousands.

“I have some reliable reports that some producers have lost few head,” Benjamin says. “I also have some reliable reports that there are people who have lost as much as 80% of their herd and were severely impacted by it.”

She explains why, even more than ten days after the storm, the number of cattle is still tentative.

“The producers are out taking care of the surviving cattle and trying to still locate anything that’s still alive, so it’s really hard to put together numbers,” Benjamin says, “but it looks like it’s going to be 1,500 to 3,000 head (lost).”

Rendering plants in the region are overwhelmed and most won’t take animals after 72 hours. The ground isn’t frozen, so some ranchers will opt to compost their lost cattle, which is permitted in the state, following guidelines.

Benjamin says producers need to record and verify their losses so they can be eligible for assistance later, as all losses must be documented for the Livestock Indemnity Program, or LIP, through the Farm Service Agency.

“Feed bills, calving records, receipts of animals sold, those types of things that have always been what FSA uses to document for LIP,” Benjamin says. “Every time they have come up with a Farm Bill, they have gone back and retroactively made those LIP payments, so we’re hopeful that will be available at some point in time.”

Benjamin says they’re working with Lieutenant Governor Lavon Heidemann and the state’s congressional delegation to find out what aid is available. Also, a relief fund is established through the Chadron Community Foundation.

Among the breakdowns, projections of livestock loss indicate between 763 and 873 head of cattle were lost in Dawes County and 206 cattle and 9 horses were lost in Sioux county.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton