Governor Dennis Daugaard and U.S. Senator John Thune flew over areas hard hit by a weekend snowstorm that killed thousands of animals.
An unusually early and extreme snowstorm over the weekend caught South Dakota ranchers and farmers unprepared, killing tens of thousands of cattle and ravaging the state's $7 billion industry -- an industry left without aid because of the federal government shutdown.
As many as 75,000 cattle have died since the storm battered the western part of the state Thursday through Saturday with snowfall that set records for the entire month of October in just three days, officials said.
State-wide snow totals averaged 30 inches, with some isolated areas recording almost 5 feet, The Weather Channel reported.
The South Dakota Stock Growers Association estimated that 15 percent to 20 percent of all cattle were killed in some parts of the state. Some ranchers reported that they lost half or more of their herds.
The storm was accompanied by hurricane-force wind gusts, especially Friday night, which drove some herds seeking shelter miles from their ranches. A trail of carcasses left a gruesome sight, said Martha Wierzbicki, emergency management director for Butte County, in the northwestern corner of the state.
"They're in the fence line, laying alongside the roads," Wierzbicki told The Rapid City Journal. "It's really sickening."