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Published February 07, 2014, 11:58 AM

Spirits high at stock show

Strong cattle markets made for an excellent mood at the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo in Rapid City, S.D., as well as a spirit of camaraderie in coming together in the midst of a cold winter that started with a devastating blizzard.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Strong cattle markets made for an excellent mood at the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo in Rapid City, S.D., as well as a spirit of camaraderie in coming together in the midst of a cold winter that started with a devastating blizzard.

The iconic ranch and cattle event draws people from South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming across a 10-day run. This year featured the Ranch Rodeo, professional saddle bronc match and sheep dog trials.

“Attendance is good, somewhere around that 300,000 number,” says general manager Ron Jeffries. “It’s the camaraderie, if nothing else. If there’s any impact, it’s mostly the fact that the cold will keep some of the older people away. That’s more of the urban people because the ranchers work outside every day.”

Dan Piroutek, who auctioneers in several places, including Philip, S.D., says the auction on Feb. 4 sold a 1,600-pound cow for a record-high $1.07 per pound, beating a 92 cent-per-pound record from a couple years ago.

Impacts of an Oct. 4 blizzard didn’t affect attendance, Jeffries says.

“For everything we’ve been through the mood is pretty positive at this point,” says Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, based in Rapid City.

Fellowship and friendship

“Cattle prices are high, which makes it tough to rebuild,” Christen says. “I’m really hopeful that between having the farm bill passed now, having some disaster programs in there, having this incredibly generous gift from the Rancher Relief Fund that we can help some of these families with, I’m really hopeful we can get them stood back on their feet and get them going again.”

The Rancher Relief fund distributed donations to ranchers who lost large portions of their herds.

It’s been a long, hard, cold winter, but the region had good grass and good hay crops last year.

“It’s nice to see everyone out here, and the fellowship and friendship that comes along with livestock events of these types of stock shows. I think it’s good for everyone,” Christen says.

The effects of the blizzard are still a main topic of conversation, and the losses still undefined. The South Dakota state veterinarian has asked people to voluntarily report losses, but those are still unknown, says Christen, who works with the Rancher Relief Fund project.

“That hasn’t worked as well as we’d hoped,” Christen says. “They’re currently reporting about 23,000 head lost. Our applications into the Rancher Relief fund has accepted about 620 applications that reflects about 43,000 head of livestock lost. That’s cattle, horses and sheep. I think that’s a pretty solid number.”

Christen says there were ranchers who were humbled to be considered for the fund, but declined to apply because they wanted it to go to others.

“I think there are still more animal (losses) out there,” she says. Affected ranchers have to rebuild base herds, so programs are going to be needed.

A federal Livestock Indemnity Program reauthorized in the new farm bill will provide 75 percent of market value with a cap of $125,000 per individual producer, and $250,000 per couple.

Piroutek guesses the true livestock losses from the storm are betweene 30,000 and 60,000.

“I can’t think that we can possibly raise enough money to cover everybody,” Piroutek says. “I do think the government should come in and give some money as part of the disaster (provisions) in the farm program.”

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