Producers Should Document Livestock Losses

Winter’s debut came in a fury Oct. 4-5, dumping up to 18 inches of snow and buckets of rain in parts of southwestern North Dakota. The precipitation was accompanied by strong, 40-to-60-mile-per-hour winds in some areas and created intense blizzard conditions, scattering herds and claiming the lives of some cattle that were trampled or drifted with the storm. Neighboring South Dakota fared even worse, with several feet of snow devastating many herds with heavy losses.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to all the ranchers who faced the wrath of Mother Nature this weekend and are dealing with substantial death loss,” said North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA) President Jason Zahn, who ranches near Towner, N.D. “Cattlemen and women are dedicated stewards of their land and their livestock, and losses like many experienced over the weekend take a heavy toll on them, emotionally and economically.”

Zahn reminds those who have lost livestock due to this or other weather-related disasters to keep detailed records. Currently, there are no federal disaster assistance programs available for adverse weather disasters. The Livestock Indemnity Program, or LIP, which provided some relief for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by adverse weather, expired in October 2011 and Congress has not yet passed a farm bill. To qualify for the program in the past, however, producers were required to verify their inventory and losses and when those losses took place. Zahn advises producers to take date-stamped photographs, keep detailed production records, get a head count, have a disinterested third party verify losses and to do so as soon as possible, so they have the necessary information needed if the livestock disaster assistance programs are renewed.

Renewal of the Livestock Indemnity Program and related disaster programs with retroactivity application – to address last weekend’s blizzard and other weather-related disasters since the program expired – has been the NDSA’s no. 1 farm bill priority. “The widespread devastation caused by the Oct. 4-5 storm underscores the urgent need to pass the farm bill and provide some reassurance to cattle producers and others who have been significantly impacted,” said NDSA Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson.