Ty Linger started Heifers for South Dakota about three weeks ago with the hope of providing one producer severely impacted by the Atlas blizzard with about 10-15 head of cattle to replace what they lost.
It’s grown beyond that — to say the least.
This past week, Linger and crew delivered the first 23 of more than 500 donated head to Jacob and Melanie Rausch of Hermosa, S.D.
“It was a phenomenally blessed day. These cattle came up from northern Nebraska and southern South Dakota, and when they stepped off the trailer, everyone kind of went ‘whoa.’ They are a tremendous set of 20 bred cows and three replacement-quality heifer calves the generous donors provided right off the tops of their own herds,” Linger said of the first of many “hope with the hide on” donations his organization is providing to their fellow ranchers.
Jacob Rausch personally lost 44 of his 58 cows, and his family lost a total of 180-190 cows and roughly 80 calves. While he may never know for sure, Jacob believes that many of his friends and neighbors mentioned his name to Shane Labrier, who is in charge of compiling information of producers suggested for donations. He said he is very humbled to have even been considered, let alone chosen as the inaugural donation.
“For Melanie and I, without my mom and dad’s support and help and these cattle, I don’t know if we would have made it,” began Jacob. “Before the blizzard we were fairly close to making a deal where we could start moving in and taking things over and my parents could start to lay back and go do a few things. After this blizzard a lot of that has changed, but my mom and dad are staying really positive that we can still make something work, despite all they also lost. These cattle in combination with them are going to make all the difference in the world for us.”
In addition to Ty and his wife, Rosalie, a variety of involved people made the trip the Rausch ranch for the drop-off, including organizers of the donation, Doug and Kim Shepherd, Zoetis representative Amy Pravecek, ranchers who donated the livestock, news crews and neighbors.
“Jacob just eased around them while we all continued to admire these cattle, and there were smiles, laughs and tears, and it was awesome. This is fruit of the labor we have all been working toward and it was a wonderful moment in life that lasted over two hours,” continued Ty.
“Ty told me before they unloaded them, that if there was anything I didn’t like or want, they would be happy to load it back up. I got to giggling at that and replied that so long as they each had a heartbeat they were fine with me, and that got a chuckle out of everyone,” replied Jacob.
He added that the group thought of everything, from having health records and Bangs tag numbers recorded for each animal to a bill of sale and any other necessary paperwork complete and on hand. Zoetis even donated a variety of livestock health items to go with the cattle.
The Rausch’s were selected for the first donation for a variety of reasons.
First, they were within the parameters of Heifers for South Dakota’s focus group of young producers who lost over 30 percent of their herd.
Secondly, because they were open to having the media, friends, family and neighbors present for the delivery.
“We wanted to show people that we were real, what we were doing, and the blessings that are flowing within the ranching community with the first delivery,” explained Ty.
Going forward, Heifers for South Dakota will continue to take livestock donations, from quality weaned heifer calves up to bred, 7-year-old cows, through their soft deadline of Nov. 9, and will start shipping cattle again Nov. 17-23.
They currently have no deadline for monetary donations.
“We would like to emphasize that it is a soft deadline, and we won’t turn away someone until the last trailer of cattle has been delivered. But, we set that date so that we can determine where we’re at, how many producers we can help, what we need in terms of transportation and how many additional livestock we may be able to purchase,” explained Ty.
He continued, stating that while his original goal was between 10 and 15 head, Ty is now hoping to provide 1,000 head of quality breeding stock to the ranchers impacted by Atlas. More than 30 branches of Heifers for South Dakota in 10 states, all completely run by volunteers, are helping to make that new goal a reality.
“It’s a phenomenal program, and you can tell when talking to Ty or Shane that it comes directly from the heart, and there is no personal compensation wanted. They’re just two really neat individuals, and everyone they’re working with is the same way. The community that is Heifers for South Dakota is based in the kind of people that make it impossible to fail in my opinion. They are leading with their hearts and it amazes me that they picked me to be a part of it. I just hope that if something else like this ever happens in the future that they’ll get a hold of me and I can help someone else out the way I’ve been helped,” noted Jacob.
“We prayed before unloading those cattle, asking for grace, mercy and wisdom moving forward. This has been hard and good all at the same time. I wish these things didn’t have to happen to get people together and meeting each other, but sometimes it takes that to get us to all join in and lend a hand. Sometimes it’s hard to recall the good people when you watch the news and see the day-to-day stuff, but we’ve all been reminded that they’re out there, and maybe even a few doors down. I hate that this blizzard happened, but I am really thankful that everyone is pitching in and that the ranching community doesn’t know state or county lines. That is what America should be about,” concluded Ty. ❖