Blizzard-struck Cattle Producers Still Deciding How To Dispose Of Dead

On Oct. 15, I shot this picture of some of Richard Papousek’s cattle that had wandered up a Badlands wall near the town of Wall, S.D., during an Oct. 4 blizzard, and then were forced over a steeper area to their death.

On Oct. 24, ranching victims of the Oct. 4, 2013, blizzard in western South Dakota are still working on how to properly get rid of dead cattle. The weather disaster is clearly historic and devastating financially for individuals and for communities that depend on them.

Richard Papousek of Quinn, S.D., who lost cattle near Wall, says he’s still working to get sufficient paperwork to a lawyer over whether his cattle that had insurance can be considered drowned if their lungs were heavy with water – asphyxiated — but they did not become submerged in surface water like a river, creek or stock dam.

As for the piles of Papousek’s cattle in places like one pasture just east and south of the city of Wall, he says there are still questions on how to handle them.

“We discussed it at a meeting last night,” Papousek says, referring to a group of ranchers that graze on public lands. “I think we’ll be able to maybe burn them. If we can, we’ll get a bunch of old (wooden) posts and putt them in there. I think that might work.” There were even more that have recently shown up than when I went to his place on Oct. 14.

I photographed Richard Papousek talks on the phone on Oct. 15 about what constitutes a “drowned” beef animal for insurance purposes. Ten days later, he says he’s still working on that issue.

It isn’t clear whether the federal government’s return to work will hasten any relief for producers like Papousek. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s livestock aid programs aren’t currently in effect, but the USDA’s Farm Service Agency has urged producers to keep track of losses in case programs eventually become available.