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Early fall snowstorm brings impacts for northern Montana ranchers

Posted at 5:14 PM, Oct 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-02 12:43:41-04

HELENA — Leaders with the Montana Stockgrowers Association say, so far, ranchers in northern Montana have not needed assistance to deal with the record early fall snow. However, they are expecting some livestock losses.

Executive vice president Jay Bodner said the association began contacting their members in the Rocky Mountain Front immediately after the storm, which brought several feet of snow to some areas.

“We like to reach out to those producers in that affected area, whether it be this type of weather event or if it’s a fire, so we can assess some of the damage that they’re seeing – and potentially some of the help or assistance that they may need to kind of get through these type of weather events,” he said.

Bodner said many ranchers still have their cattle on summer grazing land around the Browning area, and they were expecting to keep them there another three weeks or so. He said some were able to move their animals, but they didn’t have enough time to get them all out.

“It wasn’t really available to be able to bring all those cattle home in that short period of time, so they had prepared as well as they could,” he said. “But still a storm of that magnitude, as much preparation as you can do, it still is going to take a lot of work, just the aftermath and making sure those animals are fed and cared for.”

He said most producers he’s talked to have located all their animals, but some are still looking.

“If you have a large snowstorm with wind, it will drive cattle potentially through fences so they get into neighbors; it pushes them onto roads,” Bodner said. “Sometimes they even get just covered up in snow, maybe in a deep coulee where they’re looking for shelter.”

Bodner said most producers have completed their haying for the year, so they have enough feed. However, in some cases, they need to use heavy equipment to get the feed to the snowbound cattle.

“We don’t really know exactly what’s happened as far as potential losses or the welfare of those cattle, but it’s first and foremost on their priority to make sure that their cattle are well taken care of,” Bodner said.

If ranchers do have losses because of the storms, they may be able to apply for federal assistance programs. Bodner said the Stockgrowers Association will help producers working through that process.