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Dana Beyenhof, a clerk at Mitchell gas station West Cubby’s on Havens Avenue, stands behind the cash register covered with $1 donation tickets collected at the convenience store last week. The store has been asking its customers to donate to the Rancher Relief Fund. It had received $472 by Monday afternoon. Store manager Dan Roy said the eight Cubby's stores in the state will continue asking for donations until mid-December. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)

Rancher Relief Fund has raised $400K, hoping to hit $1M by 2014

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As the state veterinarian, Dustin Oedekoven holds a close relationship with South Dakota’s livestock community.

So it was especially hard for him when an early autumn blizzard dumped up to 4 feet of snow in some parts of western South Dakota and killed thousands of cattle.

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“Knowing the people makes it even harder,” he said Monday. “They’re a good group of people, and I have no doubt they’ll bounce back. This was quite a blow.”

Oedekoven said it’s been encouraging to see all of the ongoing efforts from individuals and groups to help those who were affected. One group, the Rancher Relief Fund, has been at the forefront of the efforts and hopes to raise $1 million by the beginning of 2014.

The South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund, endorsed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, is administered by the Black Hills Area Community Foundation in cooperation with the South Dakota Association of Cooperatives, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association. Its goal is to benefit livestock producers impacted by the early October blizzard that buried western South Dakota in snow and killed thousands of cattle.

South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association President Cory Eich, of Canova, said Monday the Rancher Relief Fund hopes to raise a total of $1 million by Jan. 1. Silvia Christen, executive director for the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, said there has been $400,000 raised since starting the relief fund Oct. 8.

“That number is picking up real fast, which is great to see,” she said. “I would love to see it go to $1 million or more than that. It would say a lot about our people in South Dakota and the people who work in agriculture.”

Wheat Growers is also supporting the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund by accepting grain donations. According to a news release by Wheat Growers, the contributions came about thanks to customers who wanted their cooperative to find a way for them to contribute a portion of their harvest to those that suffered livestock loss.

Local groups and businesses have organized events to benefit the fund. There will be rollover auctions in Mitchell, Platte and Kimball, and there will be a barrel racing event with a silent auction in Letcher.

Mitchell Livestock Auction Co. has already collected about $10,000 that will go toward the relief fund, according to Lisa Christopher, office manager. Mitchell Livestock Auction Co. will have a rollover auction starting at 10 a.m. Nov. 7.

In a rollover auction, bidders buy a calf and then donate it back to be re-auctioned repeatedly, with proceeds of each bid session going to the relief fund. At the end of donations, the calf is sold.

Platte Livestock Market will have a rollover auction at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in Platte. Marshall Ringling, an owner at Platte Livestock Market, estimated 40 to 50 head have been donated that will be sold, with all proceeds going to the Rancher Relief Fund.

“It’s exciting to see how many people have donated for this,” Ringling said. “This just shows everyone is willing to help out people in need.”

Kimball Livestock Exchange will have its rollover auction starting at 1 p.m. today, said Exchange Owner Wayne Tupper.

On Nov. 9, there will be a 4D Jackpot Barrel Racing event in Letcher and a silent auction. Event organizer Kyle Cross is expecting 150 entries for barrel racing, which will give money and belt buckle prizes to winners. Cross added there have been items and money donated from at least seven states and there is about $3,000 worth of items donated for the silent auction.

“We started putting this together two weeks ago and our phones have been ringing off the hook,” he said. “It’s already getting to be a lot bigger than we thought it would be. We’re overwhelmed with what we’ve gotten.”

Oedekoven, who grew up just east of Sturgis in Meade County, estimated between 15,000 and 30,000 cattle died because of the storm. He said there were 10,000 reported deaths to the state Animal Industry Board as of Monday.

“Obviously it is a blow to several farmers and ranchers who lost a significant portion of the herd,” Oedekoven said. “I think people are really dealing with a lot of things. Some of them will have suffered a significant loss to their business. There’s a lot of concern in some places that were hard-hit about how they will recover.”

Eich, along with representatives from the Stockgrowers Association and the Sheep Growers Association, met in mid-October and allocated $50,000 for immediate relief that is going to farmers and ranchers whose only income is cattle-based. The group is meeting again Monday in Wall hoping to finalize an end date to fundraising and finalize the criteria to receive aid. Eich is unsure of how the donated money will be distributed because the group is unsure how many people qualify for relief. He said that’s another thing that has to be discussed.

Eich said he’s already seen and heard stories of the donations going toward aid to the people who were hit hardest by the storm.

“There are stacks of envelopes to open,” Eich said, “and if you get a couple hundred letters and envelopes with checks for a hundred dollars each, it starts to add up.”

Mitchell gas station West Cubby’s on Havens Ave., has been asking its customers if they want to donate to the Rancher Relief Fund. It had already received $472 as of Monday afternoon. Store manager Dan Roy said the business will continue asking for donations until the middle of December. It is one of two Cubby’s gas stations in Mitchell and one of eight in South Dakota donating to the Rancher Relief Fund. All eight stores had received a total of $2,348 as of Monday, according to Jeff Wendling, a manager at a Cubby’s in Sioux Falls.

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