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Program seeks donations to replace cattle losses in SD

By Jonathan Knutson

Miles City, Mont., rancher Ty Linger knows the financial and emotional cost of losing cattle.

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“When you’re a rancher, cattle aren’t just your livelihood; they’re your life. You have so much involved in them: time, energy and money,” he says.

So after Linger heard about the early October blizzard that hammered livestock in the Dakotas and Nebraska, he organized the Heifers for South Dakota program. It collects donated high-quality cows from ranchers elsewhere in the country to give to producers who lost animals.

“Let’s help replenish the herds of people who have lost so much,” he says.

So far, ranchers from a number of states, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa and Utah, have pledged 425 cows through the program, he says. Heifers for South Dakota is accepting bred heifers and bred cows no more than seven years old. “The challenge we’re giving people is, give your best. Ask yourself if it’s something you’d be proud to own,” he says of potential livestock donations. Numerous truckers have stepped forward to donate their time, equipment and even the cost of fuel, he says. Heifers for South Dakota also is taking monetary donations to help cover the cost of transporting the cows to their recipients.

The goal is giving each rancher hurt by the blizzard 20 bred animals that will produce calves next spring, he says.

Beginning ranchers will receive priority because they haven’t had time to build up equity in their operation and are at greater risk of going out of business, Linger says.

Linger, 33, has been involved with cattle all his life, but this is the first year he’s run the family cow-calf operation. His animals benefited this year from wonderful weather, in contrast to the herds of producers hit by the October blizzard, he says.

Response to Heifers for South Dakota, from ranchers and others, “has really taken off. It’s wonderful,” he says.

Jen and Joey Kessel, who ranch near Belfield, N.D., are helping to coordinate Heifers for South Dakota in North Dakota. Their cattle weren’t affected by the October blizzard.

“There are so many people who need help. It’s pretty awesome how everyone is coming together to help,” Jen Kessel says.

Nov. 9 is the deadline for donations.

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