Photo courtesy of Erick in the Woods
After the recent tragedy in “West River” South Dakota, I have spent the last couple of days contemplating this post. It hasn’t been a matter of whether or not I care, but more a matter of how exactly do I feel about the whole situation.
For those of you who aren’t aware of the disaster, a record breaking storm – “Atlas” – recently hit western South Dakota, that not only shut down that side of the state, but took the agricultural community by “storm.” For those of you reading this from back on the west coast, we all have summer pastures for our cattle. Well here in South Dakota the summer pasture is in West River. Ranchers essentially weren’t prepared for this storm to come. No one had their cattle off of the summer pastures, because storms of this intensity at this early in the year are very rare. Not only were the ranchers not prepared, but the cattle weren’t either; none of them had the winter hair coats that they usually have during storms of this caliber.
Now, how do I really feel about the situation? Honestly? I feel angry. The kind of five year old angry, that I want to flop myself on the ground and just stomp my feet and scream.
I feel angry…that mother-nature has to be such a b*tch. As if it wasn’t bad enough through out Texas and Oklahoma recently getting hit by a drought that impacted cattle operations, now mother-nature has swept through the Midwest killing what is predicted as tens of thousands of head of cattle. When are we going to get a break?
I feel angry…that the national news is just now picking up on this tragedy. I realize that this isn’t directly effecting humans, such as a tornado hitting Wayne, NE or a Hurricane hitting the east coast, but it effects animals. How is it that something so superficial as a “fluffy cow” caught the attention of the nation, and yet something so devastating as thousands of animals dying from a natural disaster can’t make the headlines? Should Perez Hilton be contacted?
I feel angry…about the people that simply don’t care. Is it not our job to be shepherds of the land? At least that is what people tell me that are strong believers in god. So if we are supposed to be shepherds of the land, shouldn’t we be caring about the animals that provide us with nearly everything we use and consume in a day. Whether people want to admit it or not we DEPEND on cattle. To the cooperate CEO who overlooks his contribution to the cattle industry, you drive a high end car with leather interior. Is that not made from cattle? To the person who doesn’t believe in the slaughter of animals, you drive on roads or perhaps you wear make-up or take birth control. Are those things not from cattle? It is time that people who see themselves as too good for the agricultural community, start seeing themselves as dependent upon us.
I feel angry…that the government had to shut down at such an inconvenient time. Just when the ranching community needs the government the most they aren’t here for us. They have left us high and dry by not passing the farm bill – something that could have assisted farmers in this time of need – and now they have left us even more sunk by shutting down. Ranchers don’t ask for a lot. Most of the time we all just mind our own business and tend to our duties, but it would be nice to have support when we most need it.
I feel angry…that anti-agriculture groups can only find the bad in our industry. Groups such as PETA and HSUS only have their eyes on us when they want to find everything that we do wrong, yet they turn their heads when ranchers are turning out to be the good guys. Some of the personal accounts from the ranchers having to dig their cattle out of snow banks is the most gut wrenching and tear jerking thing possible. It simply goes to show that ranchers LOVE their animals. We wouldn’t do anything to harm them, it isn’t our nature.
I feel angry…that no amount of money can ever fix the emptiness and helplessness of the ranchers. They have worked years, possibly generations, to build their cattle herds. Raising cattle isn’t just a matter of sticking a bull and cow in the same pen and hoping for the best. It’s a matter of endless trials and tribulations trying to find the perfect bull with the perfect EPD’s to breed to the perfect cow. It’s also a matter of waking up at 2 a.m. to A.I. cows and sleepless nights doing calving checks. A lot of blood and sweat goes into operating a cattle ranch, something that no one will understand until they are in the shoes of the ranchers who have lost everything.
Now…I find myself feeling angry because I can’t help the industry that has built me, when they need me most. I don’t have the kind of money to donate to those that will need help rebuilding their operations. I don’t have cattle I can donate to help rebuild herds. I don’t have a truck and trailer to help haul cattle.
What I do have…is the ability to write and spread the word. I have always told myself that I want to be a writer for the agriculture industry because farmers and ranchers are the most silent group of people in the country. Here is my chance to use my voice to address their concern and complete need for assistance.
I realize that being angry won’t fix anything. That is why I have decided to take action by posting this. Please, feel free to share the word. Our ranchers need us, the least we could do is give them support.
Below, is ways that you can help to assist those in need. Every contribution you could make would be greatly appreciated. Like I said early, farmers and ranchers don’t ask for a lot, but at this point in time I am asking for them. They need our help!
Heifers for South Dakota has created a Facebook page that people can visit in order to pledge livestock to those that have nothing left.
Atlas Blizzard Ranch Relief and Aid is also another Facebook group that has committed themselves to raising awareness and funds for those in need.
To donate monetary funds The South Dakota Ranchers Relief Fund has been established. Please click here for more information.
If you are a rancher needing assistance finding lost livestock there is also the South Dakota Cattle Locator Facebook page.
Just remember that being angry will not get us anywhere, but taking action could help the community that needs us most.
With best regards!