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Cattle Deaths Impact State's Economy

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The head of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association says the early October blizzard that killed tens of thousands of cattle in western South Dakota will have a staggering economic impact on the state.

The 16 counties hit by the blizzard were home to 800 thousand cattle in Jan. 2013. At 17 hundred dollars per cow, these cattle held a direct value of more than half a billion dollars, and an indirect value of nearly 1.7 million.

"Our agriculture industry does more for South Dakota's economy than any other segment of our industry. We're also talking about a huge geographic area within South Dakota that has had their economy pretty much destroyed over this," said Silvia Christen, Exec. Dir. of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Assocation.

It's estimated that anywhere from 15 to 30 thousand cattle were lost in that storm. A number that is expected to go up, and could result in direct economic losses of more than 50 million dollars.

"The secondary effects of this are really all the businesses who benefit from the livestock industry out here in western South Dakota, and across the state. And that includes feed dealer ships, that includes attorneys, that includes any kind of service like that," said Christen.

Anyone who does business with ranchers will ultimately lose money.

"The cattle that are raised out here are what ends up as steak on your plate. And these are cattle that go into the food supply that feed America," said Christen.

Silvia Christen says this will most likely lead to an increase in beef prices across the state sometime in the next year. Although more than 300 thousand dollars in donations has come in, it's going to take much more than that to rebuild these herds.

"I'm sure that we will recover some cattle numbers within th year, and recovering those cattle numbers will also make it possible for our ranch families to again be putting money back into the economy," said Christen.

The entire process could take anywhere from three to five years, and there's still no definite dollar amount for how much the damage will cost the state.

Silvia Christen says they'll be able to make a more accurate estimate of what the economic impact will be once they know exactly how many cattle were lost.

You can donate to the Rancher's Relief Fund by visiting giveblackhills.org.

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