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Published December 02, 2013, 09:55 AM

Mont. ranchers donate cattle to SD

Breeding stock were sent to replace animals lost in the October blizzard.

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Montana ranchers have donated 45 head of cattle for breeding stock to their South Dakota counterparts who lost thousands of cattle in a freak blizzard in October.

Montana ranchers Rene Brown and Alisha Burcham decided they wanted to do something and began gathering cattle donations from Montana’s Hi-Line area in the northern part of the state.

“Twelve hours this way with that storm and that could have been us,” says Brown, a Chinook-area rancher.

South Dakota officials say the Oct. 4 blizzard dumped up to 4 feet of snow in the western part of the state, killing about 14,000 cattle, 1,257 sheep, 287 horses and 40 bison.

Brown and Burcham used social media and word-of-mouth to gather cattle donations. Brown’s brother-in-law, Earl Brown, started moving the cattle Nov. 22.

“I told him I wanted to get a pot load of cattle together to send to South Dakota,” Rene Brown says. “He told me I couldn’t do it, and if I did, he would drive them there. Well, we did and even have donations for the fuel, so he’s donating his time for the drive.”

The organization, Heifers for South Dakota, accepted nominations for the donated cattle. The group chose family ranches that had herds of about 160 head, but lost 50 to 60 percent of them in the storm, Brown says.

She says many small producers don’t have insurance because of the cost.

“Congress may approve some disaster aid, but that’s not a sure thing and they can’t even pass a farm bill,” she says. “This donation will make a big difference to ranchers in South Dakota. I knew the Hi-Line would come through, but it is humbling to see this come together.”