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ND fund gives ranchers hurt by blizzard $200K

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ND fund gives ranchers hurt by blizzard $200K
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

By Blake Nicholson

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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The North Dakota Stockmen's Foundation has awarded nearly $200,000 to North Dakota and South Dakota ranchers who lost livestock in the early October blizzard.

The foundation issued the last of its aid checks to ranchers this week, the group said Thursday. About $163,000 went to producers in North Dakota and the rest went to South Dakota, where a separate relief fund set up by cattle and sheep groups in the state has raised more than $5 million.

The storm hit Oct. 4-5 with surprising intensity, bringing rain, heavy snow and strong winds to the region. Some parts of western South Dakota got as much as 4 feet of wet, heavy snow.

The storm was much more devastating to South Dakota's livestock industry, with losses of cattle, sheep, horses and bison estimated at more than 43,000. Many cattle died of congestive heart failure brought on by stress, according to South Dakota State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven.

There is no firm number on North Dakota's losses, but they are believed to number more than 1,000 animals.

Donations to the North Dakota fund came from people, businesses, youth groups, civic organizations, breed associations and church groups from across the United States, said Towner rancher Jason Zahn, who's president of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association and the Stockmen's Foundation.

"We were really happy. We didn't know what to expect," he said. "We also didn't know if we'd get any applications. Sometimes it's tough to get people to admit they need help."

A committee of Stockmen's leaders evaluated applications and selected recipients based on need.

"The disaster relief applications were filled with stories of tragedy and triumph," Zahn said. "We empathize with what they went through to protect and care for their herds during that incredible storm."

The Rancher Relief Fund set up by the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association continues to accept donations.

Stockgrowers Executive Director Silvia Christen said Thursday that $4.2 million has been doled out to about 600 ranchers, and a decision will be made in early April on distributing the rest.

"We are totally blown away by the generosity," she said. "It's just been an incredible outpouring. We certainly didn't expect this kind of response from around the country. It's been very overwhelming and very humbling."

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