Cattle ‘Disappear’ into South Dakota Landscape
If you grew up on a farm or currently live on one, there are four words dread; Your Cattle Are Out! This past Thursday afternoon I was thumbing through my Facebook feed and noticed this post from Jared Soulek;
I currently have a bunch of cattle out. They are 400-550 pound calves. Mostly white/gray with some black angus mixed in. We have found some as far as 10 miles away from where they started. we have gathered approximately 100 but still don’t know where 50-60 are.
Don't know where they are? How could that be? That's what I was saying to myself as I read the post, how on earth can you 'not know where 50 or 60 head of cattle are? That's where we'll start.
It seems something spooked the freshly weaned calves last week. [It doesn't take a lot to frighten them] Spooked them bad enough to run through the fence of their weening yard. That's where this 'adventure' begins. First, a late-night call saying, there are cattle out along the highway and we think they're yours. Here's where the search gets tricky.
An unusually wet spring and summer has left Charles Mix County in South Dakota still struggling with too much water. Fields that would normally be growing corn and beans are either underwater with slewgrass growing up or fields with tall weeds growing in them. In short, there are more places for a 450-pound calf to hide out than you would ever think.
Sunday morning I rode with Jared's dad Dan Soulek and witnessed first hand how a 450-pound steer can literally disappear into a 6-foot high 80-acre cane field. I mean disappear right in front of your eyes. Neighbors helped out too. Two riders on horseback [Clevelands] searched for hours. They spotted the steer one time, but he disappeared into the thick cover again.
Between the cornfields, extreme dense cover presented by wet conditions and tall cornfields, a freshly weaned calf can disappear more efficiently than a crook in New York City. Dan told me he even rode in an airplane for over an hour and many of the escapees were still able to elude them.
Joe, Dan, Jared and soon to be Soulek Niki spent a LOT of time over the weekend gathering cattle. Dan said he had more calls on his phone than usual over the past few days. Between four-wheelers, pickups pulling a stock trailer and several homesteads with cattle corals in place, they were able to get all but about 7 head back to the weaning pen by early Sunday afternoon.
I grew up on a farm, but out west, we didn't have the cornfields west river when I was growing up. We didn't have the slews that are full of tall grass and fields too wet to access to even plant cover crops. You wouldn't think it would be possible to lose a 450-pound animal in the middle of South Dakota but our wet weather made for a needle in a haystack story you can't even begin to make up.
If you have cattle, or farm in South Dakota you most likely have a story similar to Souleks. I overheard a conversation with Dan as he talked with a neighbor, it's just been one thing after another this year. Everybody's been struggling this year.
Dan, Jared, and Joe all said the help from neighbors and friends has been incredible. It's amazing how people come together and help each other in times like this.
How about you? Do you raise cattle, or have a weather-related agriculture story? I'd love to hear from you if you do. You can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.