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State vet: Blizzard animal losses could exceed 43K

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PIERRE (AP) — The number of livestock killed by an early October blizzard in western South Dakota could total more than 43,000, State Veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven says.

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Ranchers reported about 24,000 lost cattle, sheep, horses and bison to his office, a much lower number than reported recently by officials with a relief fund set up to help ranchers. The Rancher Relief Fund established by the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association has reported losses of 43,000 animals, with more than 600 ranchers applying for aid from the fund that has received more than $4 million in donations from around the country.

Oedekoven told KGFX radio that he believes rancher reports to his office were lower for a number of reasons.

"They just didn't want to report — didn't want anybody to know about it. In some cases people felt bad because they lost less than their neighbor did; they just didn't feel justified in calling in and reporting anything," he said. "Or in some cases, if they lost a lot, and had some pride, (they) just didn't want (the losses) to be reflected."

The storm hit Oct. 4-5 with surprising intensity, bringing first rain and then strong winds and up to 4 feet of wet, heavy snow in western South Dakota. Oedekoven said earlier that many cattle died of congestive heart failure brought on by stress.

Four months later, most ranchers he has spoken with are upbeat, Oedekoven said.

"They dealt with whatever cards they were dealt from this storm, and they're trying to move on as best they can," he said.

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