Clean-up operations continue in South Dakota in the US, where thousands of beef cattle have been left dead after getting caught up in devastating blizzards.

Up to 4ft of snow fell during storms two weeks ago, killing anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 head of cattle.

Exact numbers are unclear because the dead livestock is spread over such a wide geographical area.

Animals suffocated as the snow built up, others suffered from hypothermia, fell off rocky ledges or were hit by vehicles as they wandered on to roads.

Two giant pits have now been dug in the eastern part of Pennington County and ranchers are being encouraged to bring carcasses to them for disposal.

The holes are 20ft deep and about 60ft wide and have been dug in an area well away from water sources in order to avoid any risk of contamination.

Meanwhile, a leading farmer-owned co-operative, called the CHS Foundation, has announced it will contribute $100,000 to the South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund.

“Ranchers across western South Dakota suffered significant loss of cattle, sheep and other livestock as a result of this storm, the vast majority of which is not covered by insurance or other programmes,” said William Nelson, CHS Foundation president.

“Through this contribution, we hope to alleviate some of the costly storm affects and support these producers in restoring their lives and livelihoods.”

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US farmers lose thousands of cattle in blizzard