CLEARFIELD, S.D. (KELO) — Snow and severe winter weather can pose a challenge for many farmers and ranchers, but this winter is taking an especially big toll on some in KELOLAND.
We visited a couple ranches in Tripp County in south central South Dakota to find out how they’re recovering.
This winter is the worst one Ty Littau has ever seen. He grew up ranching near Clearfield, South Dakota, which is just south of Winner.
“Hands down the worst that I’ve seen. I’m a 1990 model, and since I mean, you got to go back to 1951-52 in this part of the world before you hear something that’s even comparable,” LIttau said.
The area has seen a lot of snow.
“We normally see about 40 inches of snow. We’ve seen over 75 inches of snow down here since the first week of December, and that’s pretty wild for us,” Littau said.
Peter Haukaas grew up on a ranch just a few miles east of Littau.
“I’ve never seen a year like this ever in my life,” Haukaas said.
Both Littau and Haukaas say the winter weather has dealt them some difficult challenges.
“Many of these animals behind us drifted. The snow came over fences, and we went hunting livestock over the Christmas holiday, and so I found bodies of dead ones as far as 12 miles away from where they started. And so Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were pretty tough,” Littau said.
“Losing cattle, and it’s hard. It’s just…cattle, they get cold and they drift off. They run out of water. Water freezes or your power shuts off. And it’s just hard to hard to do it,” Haukaas said.
From the weight of all the snow, Littau’s calving barn roof partially collapsed right before needing it most.
“For us right now, it’s really keeping a close eye on as many of these animals as we can and really try to get them somewhere that we can defend them if need be from the elements,” Littau said.
And for these ranchers in Tripp County, it was like waking up every day and not knowing which problem they’d be facing next.
“Pushing snow every day. I mean, pushing snow every morning, every night. I mean, trying to keep these roads open, these cattle fed. It’s just, it’s pretty tough,” Haukaas said.
“We woke up there for a long time wondering, what fresh hell is this? And what’s going to go down today, whether it was equipment or wells or livestock,” Littau said.
For these ranchers, remaining optimistic and pushing forward is the what’s next.
“I can tell my grandkids about this year, that’s for sure,” Haukaas said.
With the drought-like conditions they’ve seen the last couple years, Littau and Haukaas are looking forward to having more moisture this spring because of the snow.