Coping with disaster on the ranch
October 18, 2013
As I sat down to write this column, I tried to focus on what topics might be appropriate for this time of year. Things like preparing for weaning, planning winter feeding programs, and backgrounding nutrition came to mind. However, all of those topics paled in light of the pictures, news stories, and social media accounts of events in western South Dakota and the surrounding area, following the blizzard and record snowfall that occurred last weekend resulting in the loss of thousands of head of livestock and considerable property damage. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts and give some resources for information on how to cope with disaster on the ranch.
Anyone who knows ranchers and others involved in the livestock business knows they care for their animals to the point of putting the needs of their cattle, sheep, and horses above their own. So, when I see the pictures of the death and devastation that resulted from the blizzard, I know how much it hurts them. I also know that many of them will never let you see it – they will put on their toughest, hardiest exterior so you can't see the pain they feel. No one could have been adequately prepared for the amount of snowfall or the timing of such a severe storm. Making things more difficult is the fact that many ranches are still without power and roads remain impassable in many locations.
Sean Brotherson, family science specialist with the NDSU Extension Service, offers the following ways to cope with loss and disaster:
• Identify and access helpful resources.
• Pursue open, continuous, and healthy communication with family members and friends.
• Build social ties with others who can network with you and share ideas.
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• Focus on family relationships.
• Use stress reduction ideas such as getting regular exercise, sleeping sufficient hours, and eating a healthy and balanced diet.
• Take steps to get spiritual renewal and explore sources of spiritual strength.
More information and discussion on these pointers is available at: http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/burkecountyextension/home-and-family/ndsu-offers-tips-on-dealing-with-weather-stress-1.
It's important to remember that in order to deal with such a disaster, you need to take care of yourself and your family as well as your animals. Finding support in your family, friends and neighbors who are going through the same thing will help ease the burden and help you deal with the stress of what has happened.
You need to also take the following important steps to manage your ranching operation at this time:
• Take photographs to document your losses. Be sure to turn on the time/date stamp feature on your digital camera in order to have proof that the losses occurred with this storm.
• If possible, have a third party verify your losses. This could be someone from the Extension Service, a local veterinarian, law enforcement, or another person who does not have a direct financial interest in your livestock operation.
• Be sure to adhere to any state or local regulations and policies when it comes to carcass disposal. Rendering or burying animal carcasses will likely be required.
• Once county Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices reopen following the government shutdown, provide documentation related to your losses in the event that disaster aid is approved.
Here are a couple of links with additional valuable information:
For those of you who would like to help, here are a couple of links where you can find more information:
• https://www.giveblackhills.org/ (search for BHACF/SD Rancher Relief Fund)
Finally, I urge those of you reading this column to keep livestock producers and all those affected by the storm in your thoughts and prayers in the coming days.