The horse toll from the major blizzard that struck South Dakota appears likely to number several hundred, with cattle losses from the storm likely to be in the tens of thousands.
Authorities are still trying to get a handle on cattle losses from the storm.
No official figures are available on horses losses, but individual news reports across the state point to ranchers losing significant numbers of animals.
One ranch alone reported the loss of 90 horses used at a summer camp.
The western part of the state was hardest hit in the storm, from October 4 to 7, which brought bitterly cold winds and a heavy snow dumping.
Ranchers were being encouraged to document their losses.
In some cases, ranchers have lost up to half their cattle herds.
Agriculture is South Dakota’s main industry, generating over $US21 billion in annual economic activity and employing more than 122,000 South Dakotans.
Governor Dennis Daugaard called on South Dakotans to assist ranchers who had experienced losses by donating to the Rancher Relief Fund set up to help them.
“I have driven across western South Dakota and seen the devastation from this storm first-hand,” Daugaard said.
“With the government shutdown and no farm bill in place, we need South Dakotans to help their neighbors. Many concerned individuals are wondering how they can help, and this fund will provide a way.”
The fund was established by the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, Stockgrowers Association and Sheep Growers Association, in conjunction with the Black Hills Area Community Foundation to provide support and assistance to impacted producers.
“Like our ancestors, we will persevere in the face of hardship by helping one another. Our ranchers need to know that they are not facing this alone,” Daugaard said.
Nebraska state Senator Al Davis, a rancher from Hyannis, said: “Things here are far worse than I anticipated in terms of deaths among cattle.”
The South Dakota Department of Agriculture has conducted an aerial survey of the affected region and continues to work with the Brand Board, Animal Industry Board and Office of Emergency Management to coordinate response efforts.
Cattle losses have also been reported in northwest Nebraska, southern South Dakota and eastern Wyoming.