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With thousands of cattle dead in South Dakota after October snowstorm, Kansas rancher works to rebuild the herd

STAFFORD - Jeff Scott has halfthe cows he had a few years ago, before the multiyear drought caused him tocull deep into his herd.

So does his neighbors.

But none of that matters in the grand scheme of things - such asthe thousands of dead cattle that are being buried and the miles of fence poststhat need fixing. South Dakotaranchers are trying to dig out economically after a freak early October snowstormleft 4 feet of snow and caused unofficial losses ranging from 20,000 to 100,000animals, including at least 15,000 head of cattle.

Therefore, despite drought, the tight supplies and high cattleprices, Scott is leading a Kansasdrive to help ranchers, one heifer at a time.

"One of the elders in my church brought it up," the Stafford County producer said. "If everyone gavea heifer back to South Dakota,they would get some of their cows back. I thought about it and one thing led toanother, and I already have taken one load up."

Scott, with the help of Coldwater resident Sandra Levering,rounded up 53 donated heifers from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas, with Scott arriving in South Dakota Saturday night. He estimated theheifers, on average, would bring about $1,800 a head with today's skyrocketingmarket.

Scott, who also has JLS Trucking, donated his time and fleet tohaul the cattle more than 500 miles north.

Levering, district manager for beef genetics company ABS Global,used her industry connections to spread the word.

They are working through a larger effort, Heifers for South Dakota. Thenonprofit was started by a Montana rancher inan effort to soften some of the economic hardship facing South Dakota ranchers, a few of which havelost a majority of their herd during the blizzard, Levering said.

Levering said the program is geared to young ranchers who havelost at least 50 percent of their herd. Donations of heifers are beingdisturbed in 20-head increments.

Size of operation doesn't matter, she added.

"One guy who had 11 head, he lost 10 of them," she said. "Anotheroperation with more than 200 head lost over half of their cows."

Originally, Levering and Scott were looking for the donation ofbred females, Levering said. However, amid a drought and low cow numbers acrossthe state, ranchers said they couldn't part with pregnant animals but would givereplacement quality heifers, as well as monetary donations.

Levering said she wasn't shocked that a region still feeling theaffects of drought wants to help others in need.

"The beef industry is a small and caring network," she said. "Itdidn't surprise me in the least."

Scott said he would continue to round up donations. PrattLivestock officials have said they would hold and feed pledged cattle, with Scottplanning another trip in spring to South Dakota when the weather is better.

He said he hopes to make at least two trips then, hauling about60 head a trip.

Some have given him money to help pay for his trips, but he saidhe is sending all donations to South Dakota.

"We are putting all those checks in an envelope and forwardingthem on," he said. "They need them a whole lot worse than we do."




For more information or to donate a heifer, call Jeff Scott at(620) 546-6304. For more information on Heifers for South Dakota, visit,

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