South Dakota ranchers need our prayerful support - Catholic Rural Life

South Dakota ranchers need our prayerful support

Catholic Rural Life • November 6, 2013


South Dakota ranchers need our prayerful support


In early October, western South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming were hit hard by a rare autumn blizzard named Storm Atlas. The early season storm was devastating to local livestock growers, particularly beef cattle producers.

Bishop Paul Etienne of the Diocese of Cheyenne and president of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference expressed his prayerful support for all the ranching families who experienced the full force of nature in this storm.

Click here to read his full blog posting about this disaster for cattle producers.

“The statistics of the losses incurred by so many ranchers is both breathtaking and heartbreaking,” Bishop Etienne wrote in his blog.

Bishop Robert Gruss of the Diocese of Rapid City has also met with people about the disaster, including a rancher who estimates that among all the states affected — Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and parts of North Dakota — up to 250,000 cattle were lost.

Both bishops have expressed concern that the economic and spiritual impact of this storm will be felt for some time to come. “Sadly, many of these cattle would have been sold within weeks after the storm,” notes Bishop Etienne. “Not only were so many calves lost, but also the herd genetics family ranchers have built over generations will take another generation to rebuild, if indeed the families are able to survive at all.”

A way of life, tested by faith

“In the wake of such devastation, it is taking a while to understand the full scale of losses, let alone understand how best to come to the aid of these ranching families,” Bishop Etienne writes at the end of his blog.

“Ranching is a way of life, a way of working hand in hand with the Creator. It is a way of life that enhances faith, and as we see up close and personal in the wake of this storm, a way of life that tests faith.

“As the Thanksgiving holiday arrives, perhaps we can each recognize the many blessings God’s Providential hand has granted us, and in the wake of this poignant need in our own country, we may find the fraternal and generous spirit to offer prayers of support and, where possible, financial contributions of immediate aid.”

For more about the impact to cattle ranching families, see an informative article at the South Dakota State Extension website.

For a moving portrayal of the nature of the storm and why the loss of livestock was so devastating, see this 16-minute video about “The Killer Storm”.

Disaster relief efforts

Some reports indicate that insurance contracts will cover, at best, only a small fraction of losses. Insurance for livestock producers has many caveats and cattle deaths must be certified by a veterinarian – highly problematic when so many cattle perish at once as in the case of Storm Atlas.

As it stands now, many ranch families are in despair emotionally. They will need counseling and spiritual support both as a community and as individuals. Read more at our NCRLC Blog. (link to come:

Besides our prayerful support, there is also a call for financial relief currently underway with (you may need to search for “Rancher Relief Fund”).

Here is another link for Ranchers Relief Fund (this one includes a 5:46 minute video about the disaster).


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