WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A livestock producer is dependent upon their animal herds to help maintain and ensure their farm operation’s livelihood.

Cattle ranchers in South Dakota were shook to their core when an early October blizzard came through with hurricane-force winds, cold temperatures and an average of 30 inches of snow, taking with it the lives of thousands of beef cattle.

Chris Hurt, an agricultural economist a Purdue University, noted that the winter storm in South Dakota is a really tragic story and that the pictures from the blizzard’s aftermath of cattle laying dead all over the countryside is heartbreaking.

“To those producers, (the cattle) weren’t just animals — they were more than that,” he said, adding losses in the livestock industry are heart-wrenching and he has experienced the loss of livestock when he was involved in the animal business.

In the coming months, Hurt speculated, the effects of the blizzard won’t have a huge impact on the beef supply or the price of meat at the national level, but significant dollar losses will be felt locally.

Due to the severity of the snowstorm, he noted, the total number of cattle lost is not yet known, but state officials are saying that the number of cows killed may be in the ballpark of 100,000.

The national beef herd totals close to almost 29 million, and by taking half of the 100,000 cattle that died in the blizzard, the effect of the winter storm throughout the state on the national herd would be two-tenths of 1 percent, the economist said.

Even though it is believed that a majority of the cows that were lost in South Dakota were beef, the other half could consist of dairy cattle, and when taking that number times the total number of cattle in the U.S., which is 89 million, one-tenth of 1 percent of the overall herd is affected.

To put those numbers into perspective, Hurt said he believes that the number of cows lost in South Dakota will have a relatively small impact on the national beef supply and consumers seeing any major increase in meat prices at the store.

While the national beef supply may not reflect drastic changes as a result of the winter storm in South Dakota, the local markets will take a heavy hit, he added.

“Those animals were worth $1,000 a piece. When you lose 100,000 at $1,000, that’s a $100 million loss at the local level,” he said, adding that the individual farmers and ranchers definitely would feel that amount of dollar loss throughout the region of the state where the blizzard hit.

Not only will cattle ranchers be affected by the hit, Hurt noted that employees of transportation companies, processing plants and auction houses also will see their lines of work impacted.