Fluctuating temperatures spell trouble for South Dakota ranchers


Kacie Svoboda

Blizzard blankets Spearfish on Oct. 4.

Just a few short years ago drought plagued the state. The grass shriveled and died, becoming brown under the yellow sun. Though the fireworks displays had long been a staple in South Dakota,fear of lighting pastures ablaze and turning nights of celebration into nights of devastation often kept displays from being shown. At that time, it was the drought that threatened the livestock by killing off the grass they grazed as well as causing them to stand in sweltering temperatures with decreased water supply. The ranchers had been afraid of the heat striking their stock dead, but this year has brought forth a new concern: freezing temperatures may kill cattle just as easily as the scorching sun

Local rancher Matt Bradley said that the early winter storm took everyone by surprise with its intensity.

“There wasn’t much anyone could do once it started because most of the animals hadn’t been moved yet,” Bradley said. “They were still in their springtime pastures, where they weren’t equipped to handle the snow. It wiped a lot of animals out.”

He concluded by saying the ranchers of South Dakota for years would feel its effects for years to comea��cattle is a major investment for most ranchers in the state, and losing so many is always a devastating blow.

Ranchers were only one group affected by the devastation. Although merely a consumer, Paula Kruze lamented the loss of cattle as well.

“I’m going to stock up on meat,” Kruze said, shaking her head. “The price of beef is going to go way up, I think. I want to get it now before we go out to barbecue.”

Although ranchers and consumers alike seemed to expect the worst, not everyone had the same bleak outlook. Some simply believed that the residents of South Dakota needed to remember years gone by. Storms like the one that happened earlier this year were previously more expected in South Dakota. It’s possible that the long-lasting drought made our memories lapse and caused an unexpected reprieve in some ways by warding off the snow.

“Ten, fifteen years ago,” said Jodie Ebert, “I remember my door getting blocked with snow. I remember my power went out every year for a while. It’s not that this storm was worse than most of us have lived through. It’s just that no matter how bad we think it is, our memories are short-term when it comes to things like this.”