Calving season brings hope to western SD ranchers

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- The arrival of spring calving season in western South Dakota is bringing hope to livestock ranchers whose herds were decimated by last fall's unexpected blizzard.

Rancher Chuck O'Connor lost 45 cows and 50 calves in the two-day October storm, which first brought rain and then dumped up to 4 feet of snow in some places. It killed more than 40,000 cattle, sheep and horses.

Cattle experts say recovery could take years to a decade for ranchers who lost high percentages of their herds.

O'Connor brought in about 200 replacement females to rebuild and expand his herd. His first calf was born in early March and his ranch has since welcomed about 75 new member of the herd. He estimates he'll have 500 new cows by early May.