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Lake Co. ranchers donate heifers to South Dakota stockmen hit by devastating blizzard

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Dec 03 2013 07:23:34 PM MST
Updated On: Dec 03 2013 09:31:40 PM MST

The animals will be sold and re-sold at auctions, then donated back to help replenish tends of thousands of cattle lost in the October storm.

ST. IGNATIUS, Mont. -

Stock growers in western Montana are banding together to help devastated South Dakota ranchers.

An October blizzard in that upper Midwest state killed thousands of livestock. Estimates are 15 to 30,000 cattle alone.

All over the country, livestock organizations have set up fund drives to help.

Two Lake County ranchers are each donating a heifer.

Their animals will be sold and resold at auctions, then donated back and shipped to South Dakota to help replenish the lost herds.

Kurt McPherson from the Lazy JM, the ranch he runs with his family in St. Ignatius, and Greg Gardner from the G and G Ranch, that he runs with his wife Lynn, in Polson, know livestock death counts in South Dakota are likely to go even higher.

Each rancher is giving away an Angus heifer they had planned on keeping for their own herds.

"They are people in our industry," said Gardner, "and they took a heck of a hit."

"I think if the tables were flipped," said McPherson, "they'd do the same for us."

McPherson's heifer is a February calf, and weighs 725 pounds. On Thursday, the young black Angus will appear in the sale ring at the Missoula Livestock Auction.

"You can do what your comfort level is," said McPherson, "and it all goes to a good cause and is nonprofit."

In the end, the heifer will find a home with some needy rancher in South Dakota.

Lake County Extension Agent Jack Stivers is the secretary of the Western Montana Stockmen's Association. Stivers said the association will throw in $1,000 for McPherson's heifer.

"And then in Ramsay (near Butte) at the Montana Livestock Auction," said Stivers, "there is a rollover auction for a heifer there, and (the association) will spend another $1,000."

Greg Gardner will bring his heifer to that auction. She's a March calf with a blood line Gardner is proud of. Gardner has friends and family in South Dakota.

"Hopefully, it will make somebody smile," he said, "that's what it's all about, making their Christmas a little better."

McPherson said it isn't just for ranchers. He said it's for communities all over South Dakota that rely on the cattle industry economically.

"It's hard to get most ranchers on the same page," he said. "But they're the first people there in a tragedy."