Round Up For Ranchers

Donated Animals To Help Restock Decimated Herds

Posted: February 6, 2014

Rockingham County farmer Lynn Koontz looks over the 40 pregnant heifers at his farm, Spring Valley Farms, on Wednesday morning. Today, Koontz will ship the cattle, which he and other Valley farmers donated, to South Dakota to help replenish herds lost by the weather. (Photos by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Pregnant heifers wait at Lynn Koontz’s Spring Valley Farmsin Rockingham County. The donated heifers will be shipped to South Dakota to help replenish herds lost by the weather.
Donated heifers at Spring Valley Farms await transport to South Dakota where cattle perished in an October blizzard.

HARRISONBURG — Sometimes, the most generous acts of kindness are not random at all, but they still come from the heart.

A local effort is making a big difference for the lives of some of the farmers in South Dakota affected by last October’s blizzard that killed tens of thousands of cattle.

One farmer, in particular, told The Associated Press that the storm killed 96 percent of his herd of 100 black Angus and Limousin cattle, and that total losses topped more than 1,000 head.

The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association estimated the western part of that state lost at least 5 percent of its cattle, according to the AP.

The Rockingham Feeder Cattle Association contacted producers in the region to solicit donations to help devastated farmers some 1,500 miles away to get back on their feet.

The response was remarkable. As a result, 40 pregnant cows will be shipped out this morning, stopping at a stockyard in Illinois to rest overnight before arriving in South Dakota by Saturday morning.

Nearly all the livestock was donated from farmers in Augusta and Rockingham counties. Some people, unable to give cattle, made cash donations that were used to buy 10 of the cows. The animals are valued at roughly $2,000 per head.

Lynn Koontz, owner of Spring Valley Farms southwest of Harrisonburg, was taking care of the animals to get them ready for the trip to South Dakota.

The goal was to put together a bunch of pregnant animals to help the affected farmers get back in business as soon as possible, said Koontz, past president of the Rockingham Feeder Cattle Association. The cows are due to calve starting in late February, he said.

“[The South Dakota farmers] lost everything. They lost all their momma cows and a lot of them lost calves last October. Not only did they lose last year’s income, but they lost the opportunity to make any money this year by losing the momma cow herself,” he said, adding he donated eight cows.

People in other states have participated in this effort. Cattle were either pledged or sent from Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Montana, according to the group Heifers for South Dakota.

On Friday, a photo was posted on the nonprofit Heifers for South Dakota’s Facebook page featuring several of the “Virginia belles” that will be making the journey northwest.

“They’ve been preg-checked, health inspected and now they have a ride. We will have a little bit of expense in trucking, but thanks to so many generous donor’s we have enough to cover it,” the site says.

“It’s quite amazing that a storm which received virtually no national attention has caused hearts thousands of miles away to be touched. These ladies will make their new owners very proud and spirits will be lifted when they step off that trailer,” the post continues.

Koontz said he is still taking donations of open heifers or money to send out to South Dakota in the spring. Farmers there will be able to breed them this summer. For more information, call him at 820-3940.

Contact Jonathon Shacat at 574-6286 or jshacat@dnronline.com



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