Aftermath of the South Dakota Northern Plains spring storm

CAMP CROOK, S.D. – South Dakota ranchers have been immersed in challenges in the past two years with drought conditions. With the recent snowstorm, ranchers are weathering yet another challenge during a crucial time of year – calving season.

While livestock producers are desperate for the moisture with more than half the state in severe drought conditions, the snow and the wind have been a battle for producers that are still calving.

North Western South Dakota, South Western North Dakota and Eastern Montana seem to have been near the bullseye of the April blizzard, with reports of 16″ – 20″ of snow, along with wind gusts up to 61 mph in the area that has caused severe drifting and white-out conditions.

Such extremes in weather can cause lasting damage to calves and bury livestock in snow drifts.  In these weather conditions, a newborn calf can only survive approximately 15 minutes before hypothermia sets in and freezes to death.  The weather with temperature fluctuations also impacts the health of all livestock with the potential of causing respiratory issues.

Kimberly and her husband Pro Rodeo Cowboy Jesse Bail ranch near Camp Crook.  They report getting 16″ of snow from the storm.

“Monday we brought in all the cows that had not calved and we fed the pairs in the draws or near stockades.  Since then the wind and snow blew so bad you couldn’t make it out to check on the pairs,” said Kimberly Bail.

Video courtesy of the Bail Ranch.

“Today is finally a day we can rescue animals, the winds have slowed so it is no longer a whiteout,” said Bail.  “These poor colts left their shelter to go eat hay and the wind swirled drifts taller than they are around them and trapping them at the hay all night.”

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Colts caught in storm. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Bail

“Today we have some calves buried in snow and cows and calves that went with the wind into pastures they weren’t supposed to be in,” said Bail who reports finding three dead calves.  “This poor guy was buried and we could hardly tell he was there.”

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The last time this area saw a spring storm this severe was in 1997, when Harding County ranchers were using snowmobiles to check pairs.  With blizzard conditions, tractors sometimes aren’t enough to get the job done, gelling up or by getting stuck in deep drifts.

Categories: ConnectCenter1-Ag, Local News, North Dakota News, South Dakota News