Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ranchers, Blizzard and Prayers

Harvest is going full bore at our farm. In fact, this column is coming to you straight from seat of the grain truck in between loads. This year I can only write a column in between loads and not a whole book like last year. It is funny just what a little rain will do; it sure makes harvest more fun.
Today was perfect, blue sky, temperatures in the 70’s and a wind blowing the dust away from me. Harvest is one of the best times of the year, that is, when things are going right. In between rains and heavy dews each morning we are making slow and steady progress each day and hopefully we will be done in time to bring the cows home in November.
Even though things are going very well for us, I can’t help but think of my fellow farmers and ranchers in South Dakota and Wyoming.  A former pastor of my church lives in Sturgis and I followed the blizzard on his Facebook page. All the time I was thinking what a horrible mess it was making of their trees and how much of a hassle and a danger it would be to get around.
It wasn’t until later in the week that I started to hear about the horrific death losses the ranchers had received because of the storm. Then I started to see the pictures and it made me sick to my stomach. I suspect most of the cattle were still on summer range far from shelter and feed. I saw pictures of animals piled up in ditches, dead along fences and heard about other wandering miles from home.
Instantly my heart went out to my fellow ranchers, I tried to put myself in their shoes and it was not a good feeling. I cannot imagine how helpless and sad they must have felt. There is nothing worse than knowing your animals are lost or suffering and then to pile on the inability to do anything about it, would be terrible.
I am also sure that just as soon as they could safely (and probably long before it was safe) travel they spent hours trying to account for, feed and save as many animals as they could. I am sure they did so without thought for their own health and safety. It must have been exhausting and awful. No one could have been prepared for such a disaster.
My thoughts then went to our detractors, groups like HSUS and PETA. These people claim to care for animals and spend a great amount of time and money advocating on behalf of animals. I wonder how many of them assisted in the searches, hauled feed through clogged roads and drifts. I am sure many sat in warm, comfortable climate controlled houses, offices and apartments and continued to pass judgment on those of us who care for animals each day.
The idea that ranchers care for their animals and feel a deep sense of loss and pain is something the “advocates” cannot fathom. They think we see our stock only as merchandise and not as living creatures under our care. I promise you this, each of those ranchers spent helpless hours and sleepless nights pacing and looking out the window at the storm.
Sure some of the pain was financial. We depend on selling beef to care for our families; there is no way around it. The wholesale losses that were seen by many ranchers will take a terrible toll on their livelihoods. In addition, years spent refining genetics and building herds were wiped out in just a few hours. That is a financial loss that is tough to take.
However, the greatest pain will be the loss of those cattle, sheep and horses. The thought that the animals lost were in their care and they could do nothing. Yes, I am sure they prepared as well as they could and I am equally as sure that they made a heroic effort after the storm. That does not ease their pain and grief.
Each of us who spend a lifetime caring for livestock feel a great sense of responsibility for them, even when we know events our out of our hands. While their end purpose may be food, we work hard to insure their comfort and safety while we have them. Please, join with me a keep the farmers and ranchers affected by this storm in your thoughts and prayers.

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