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Early snow kills large number of cattle in S. Dakota

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By The Associated Press
Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, 9:30 p.m.

PIERRE, S.D. — A record-breaking storm that dumped 4 feet of snow in parts of western South Dakota left ranchers dealing with heavy losses, in some cases perhaps up to half their herds, as they assess how many of their cattle died during the unseasonably early blizzard.

Meanwhile, utility companies worked to restore power to tens of thousands of people still without electricity Monday because of the weekend storm that was part of a powerful weather system that buried parts of Wyoming and Colorado with snow and produced destructive tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa. At least four deaths were attributed to the weather, including a South Dakota man who collapsed while cleaning snow off his roof.

Gary Cammack, who ranches on the prairie near Union Center about 40 miles northeast of the Black Hills, said he lost about 70 cows and some calves, about 15 percent of his herd. A calf would normally sell for $1,000, while a mature cow would bring $1,500 or more, he said.

“It's bad. It's really bad. I'm the eternal optimist and this is really bad,” Cammack said. “The livestock loss is just catastrophic. ... It's pretty unbelievable.”

Cammack said cattle were soaked by 12 hours of rain early in the storm, so many were unable to survive an additional 48 hours of snow and winds up to 60 mph.

“It's the worst early season snowstorm I've seen in my lifetime,” said Cammack, 60.

Early estimates suggest western South Dakota lost at least 5 percent of its cattle, said Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association. Some ranchers reported losses of up to 50 percent.

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