Cattle become casualties of weekend storm in Dakotas
By Bryan Horwath and Katherine Grandstrand
HETTINGER, N.D. — Last week’s massive snowstorm along the North Dakota-South Dakota border turned deadly for a large, yet still unknown number of cattle, according to an Adams County rancher.
Dan Christman, who lives a few miles east of Hettinger, said he lost 20 black Angus cows and as many as two dozen calves when they wandered away from a pasture where they were being kept along the state border.
Some escaped pastures through broken fences and others we able to walk right over the fence with the help of snow drifts, said Adams County North Dakota State University Extension agent Julie Kramlich.
“They drifted into the next pasture and got trapped in a horseshoe dam,” Christman said. “I’m sure the cattle didn’t even realize it until they got out there and fell through belly deep in mud. The dam was probably a couple hundred yards wide. We were out there all day (Monday), pulling dead cows out.”
Officially, the Hettinger area received about 20 inches of snow during the storm, which hit the Northern Plains on Friday, though Christman said he believed some areas south and east of Hettinger got as much as 30 inches.
“Most of the numbers of the dead cows don’t even match with the dead calves, so there are cows missing calves and calves missing mothers,” Christman said. “You can’t move any of them now without snowmobiles or big tractors. That area down there could be without power for close to two weeks.”
While ranchers tried to save their cattle, the surprise severity of the storm prevented many from making decisions before it was too late, said Kramlich.
“A lot of them got out because they thought they were crowded and they were trying to protect themselves from the wind and the storm, and they got pushing,” Kramlich said.