Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lost month

October of 2013 was a completely lost month.  The snow storm called "Atlas" happened on October 4 and 5.  We were out of electricity for almost a week.  The first week after the storm it seemed we spent collecting cattle.  Ever day we collected more cattle.  They could be neighbors cattle or your own, but more stragglers kept coming in.  Fortunately the weather stayed mild, but the sun never seemed to come out.  It just stayed cloudy.

Our neighbor to the west had is cattle drift onto our south pasture.  Since most of the fences were snowed under, some fences were under four or five feet of snow, I told him to leave them there as they were content to stay.  Our cattle had congregated on the alfalfa field along the creek around our house.  They spend part of the winter there so were completely content.

This was the scene out our bedroom window one morning.  The cows grazing on the lawn by the house.
A week after the storm it still hadn't froze, so the grass and trees were still green.

Then we started dragging dead cattle out of the pastures and creeks and road sides.  Over here most of our cattle were lost in deep snow as they tried to cross the deep snow in the deep draws.  Some made it to the creek and the snow covered them.  So we had to wait for snow to melt so we could find them.  Then 2" inches of rain fell and brought the creek up and flooded everything.  So then we had to wait for the water to go down and the ground to dry out enough that we could get out on the prairie and the fields.  The carcasses lay rotting in the water and nobody could get to them.  There was a lot of frustration due the constant waiting to do something.

The Meade county emergency management called and asked if they could make a burial pit on a school section that we lease.  The county came in and dug a pit to put 350 head in and if they needed more room they would dig another pit right next to it.  The day the pit was dug we hauled about fifty head to it. About twenty head were neighbor's cattle that were laying on the school section.  Then we hauled from our fields and road sides to get the rest.

Last Monday Mr Micheal Scuse an under-Secretary in USDA that oversees FSA and NRCS came to Union Center and we were among those that met with him then we led him up to the pit on our school lease.  Also Mr.Craig Schaunamen , director of the state FSA was along.  The pit is filling fast.  The ground is drying enough that people can finally get out and haul big loads of cattle across the prairies.

Last Thursday over here at Fairpoint we finally were able to drag cattle out of the creek.  We had a big  crew and good equipment that we had access to so we drug and buried close to two hundred head.  A lot of them were scattered along the creek.  One group of around sixty head was stuck in a bend in the creek below a steep bank.  They must have stumbled over the bank and down into the creek and the deep snow and succumbed.

Suddenly half the month was gone.  All we had gotten done was gather cattle. Sort cattle.  Drag dead cattle and dig holes to bury cattle.  The City of Strugis and  most of the business came to Union Center Community Center and cooked steaks for the surrounding community.  They served steaks for several hours and fed over 600 people. Many people came one hundred miles to the event.  The Governor and Sec. of Agriculture from Pierre were even in attendance.

This last week we have been able to direct our attention to the living.  We sold steer calves in Philip on Tuesday.  They had one of the biggest sales they have had in a few years.  Finally ranchers could get their cattle out on to sale barn to get sold.  Next Saturday we will sell the rest of our calves that we run over here at Fairpoint.  Then we hope to sell lambs the next week.  The lamb market has been one bright spot.  We were going to sell lambs early in October, the price would have been around $1.45 per pound.  Now lambs are bringing over $2 per pound.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The snow storm "Atlas"

The last week has been unprecedented to say the least. Last Thursday with a reported storm coming I moved lots of hay stacks to get them moved before it got too wet to drive on the fields.  That evening it was starting to rain.  We went out and got the sheep brought into the corral just in case it was a bad storm.  Most storms this early in the year are just rain events with a few inches of snow that comes at night when it gets cold.  The cows and calves are still out in the summer range as we are three weeks away from selling calves.  The grass is green from all the fall moisture and weather is mild.

It rained all that night.  In the morning we had 1.50" of rain.  Every thing was soaking wet.  It started to snow about eight in the morning. It snowed all day and accumulated maybe 3-4 inches.  The Black Hills were getting more snow, but they always do.  The electricity went out about 10 AM that Friday.  The wind was picking up.   Tammy went out to look at her sheep.  They were a little wet , but not too uncomfortable.  The temperature stayed at 32 degrees all day and into the night.

That night the storm "Atlas" raised its ugly head and bore down on western South Dakota.  When it was over on Saturday over four feet of snow had fallen in the Black Hills and several feet on the plains were we live.  There were snow banks over six feet deep just in our yard.  We put the sheep in the barn to get them dried out.  As it continued to have snow flurries in the morning.

We started to pick our way around the snow banks.  We had not gone very far when we saw our first dead cow.  It wasn't ours so we felt lucky.  We continued our journey north and started seeing isolated bunches of cattle in the distance.  A lot of them we couldn't get to, the snow was simply too deep.  The sun came out and the temperature rose to the mid- 50's.

We got to the north ridge and started seeing some of our cows.  We broke a track to them and started them down to the creek by the house.  Then we went back up north and found some more and headed them down to the creek by the house.  All day Sunday we collected cows and calves and yearlings.  We started seeing more and more dead ones, some of ours and some of the neighbors.

Here is a bunch of cattle that we gathered.  There are at least four owners and maybe five represented in this bunch.  When we got them down to the creek and the alfalfa bottoms they went to grazing.  We tried to feed them hay but the grazing was too good and they just passed up the hay.  We will sort out the cattle to the different owners when the weather and conditions have improved.

I will spare the readers of this blog the gruesome pictures of dead cattle.  Anyone who has traveled the roads in western South Dakota has seen the sight many times over.  Facebook post are full of pictures.  We lost our share of cows and calves.  One bunch of cows had really no loss.  Our yearling heifers have survived the storm for the most part.  The way things are mixed up it is hard to get a good count.  The bulls over at Ryan's had not much shelter from the storm and all come through, although they were scattered.

The snow was deep in the corrals close to the barn.  We started cleaning out the snow so that the ground could dry.  We still have lambs to sell and calves to sell and cattle to sort.

The REA got the electricity turned on late Thursday afternoon.  We had gone almost a full week without electricity.  What we missed the most was news and weather on the television.  We also missed our internet.
Also you get tired of camp food after a while.  Beans and spam. Actually we eat better than that.  We have three Coleman lanterns so we have good light.  After a while you have read everything you care to read.

Now today it has decided to rain and the wind blow sixty mile an hour.  So the creek was flowing bank full the last few days and now with the rain it is flooding.

This is the lilacs next to the house to the west.  The creek has flooded all the way across the alfalfa field.

The guy from Black Hills Power and Light was on the noon news on TV and said that this storm was the biggest most costly event in their 134 year history.  Some neighbors of ours will not get electricity till into next week.