The devastating loss of close to 100,000 head of cattle due to last weekend’s winter storm Atlas has finally reached the mainstream media. Many major news outlets have now reported on the violent storm that swept western South Dakota and the surrounding area. It’s unusual that anything happening in rural America makes the national news, so it’s much appreciated that the media is seeing the wide scope of the devastation and bringing awareness to the issues ranchers now face in moving forward after this tragic storm.
However, reading some of the online comments to that coverage isn't for the faint of heart. Some commenters contend that ranchers are rich, entitled and won’t feel the loss of these cattle anyway. They say the government gives us so many handouts that the losses will be compensated, or that the ranchers must not have cared much about their animals because so many died in the storm. They contend that the cattle should have been indoors to protect them from the storm. Ranching is a gamble, they say, so producers shouldn’t whine when things go wrong.
I am frustrated by this and see it as a slap in the face to all ranchers, but particularly those in my home state. My cousin is a veterinarian in western South Dakota where much of the devastation took place, and she says visiting her clients now is very difficult. She has heard stories of lost 4-H heifers, dead 15-year-old cows, and the boss cow that has been in the family “forever” that has gone missing. These cattle represent so much more than a financial loss; the emotional pain will endure for a long time.
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If you've seen negative comments toward producers on these online articles and wondered what to say, I encourage you to check out the following blog post. It does an excellent job of answering all the accusations and questions in a way that tells the ranchers’ story.
The blogger, Jody Price Schobel, says it best when she wrote on Facebook, “Think about that thing that you love to do more than anything else. That thing you dream about doing. That thing that you just think you might not be able to go on if you couldn’t do it anymore. That thing that brings you joy and makes you smile just thinking about. Is it golf? Fishing? Football? Running? Maybe it’s your job? And what about that place you like to go to, that place where you feel most at home? Most yourself? The place you always wish you could always be at? Is it a cabin up north? Is it the top of ski hill? On the lake? In the woods? And then think about your grandparents house or maybe even your great grandparents house and all the memories that go with it. Ranching, for these people, is all of that. All of it. All of it wrapped up into one thing. It’s their family, their home, their history and future. It’s their lifestyle, their hobby and the essence of who they are. It’s not just a job or a paycheck. It’s who they are. It’s what they love.”
How would you respond to some of these negative comments online? What do you think is the most important lesson consumers should take home from this storm?
More Winter Storm Atlas Information: