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Ranchers Ready for Storm

December 3, 2013
snow fence

Source: Associated Press

Cattle ranchers in the Dakotas who lost thousands of animals in an early October blizzard say they're better-prepared for the latest winter storm to threaten the northern Great Plains.

By late Wednesday, the region's snow could range from 2-10 inches, with the heavier snowfall in southern North Dakota and northern South Dakota, according to the National Weather Service. It'll be accompanied by gusty winds.

Many cattle were still in summer pastures when the October storm hit, dropping 1 ½ feet of snow in southwestern North Dakota and up to 4 feet in western South Dakota, killing thousands of animals. Ranchers have since moved cattle to winter pastures or homesteads, and also have taken advantage of some relatively good weather and have been able to put up hay, said Bob Fortune, who ranches near the southwestern South Dakota town of Belvidere.

"They've kind of got things back to normal as far as fences fixed, what cattle they've got left gathered up," he said of neighboring ranchers who suffered big losses in the Oct. 4 storm that hit with surprising intensity. "It's kind of back to a normal situation, but they're not recovered, probably never will be recovered — they lost so much equity in their operation.

"But we're kind of ready for winter now," Fortune said. "It's a whole different scenario. Our cattle will survive this."

Freezing rain fell in many areas on Monday, and forecasters said bitterly cold weather was expected to follow the snowfall on Thursday and Friday, with wind chills as low as 40 degrees below zero.

Cattle are better able to withstand the harsh conditions than they were two months ago, said Julie Ellingson, executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association.

"Cattle are a hardy species; they can endure a lot," she said. "With that October storm, they didn't have their winter hair coat yet. They've acquired some of that extra hair that will help insulate them better."

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