Mother Nature can unleash her fury and wrath at any time, especially when it’s least expected. Even with all the technology available in today’s day and age, experts sometimes can’t predict what’s going to happen with the weather until it’s already too late.

Unfortunately, this was the case in South Dakota, where ranchers were caught off-guard by an early-season blizzard that came through at the beginning of October and wrecked havoc across the state.

The winter storm, which lasted several days, brought with it driving gusts of wind, an average of 30 inches of snow and bitter-cold temperatures. After three days of weather under the aforementioned conditions, the blizzard was over, just as quickly as it started.

However, its effects didn’t go unnoticed as thousands of beef cattle perished in the storm, their carcasses littering the sides of roadways, fields and much of the state’s landscape.

Raising beef cattle is a way of life for those involved in agriculture in South Dakota, and the state in 2012 ranked fifth in overall beef cattle production.

Due to the government shutdown, no federal financial help was immediately available for those individuals in South Dakota, who make their livelihood as cattle ranchers.

When I first heard about this horrific tragedy that was hitting the state, I was completely speechless and my heart went out to all of those who were affected by the snowstorm.

As sad as the news coming out of South Dakota, the total number of animals lost may not be known for some time, due to large snowdrifts and the government shutdown.

But, for me, what really struck a nerve was that many people not directly tied to agriculture had no idea what was happening in South Dakota, partly because not enough news coverage was given to the situation.

I realize that some individuals may not think what happened to all the cattle in South Dakota directly affects them, but with the number of beef cattle being raised in the nation already on the low side, the availability and price of beef will more than likely reflect a drastic change.