The massive tractor rocked back and forth as Scott Hamilton furiously switched gears. The machine was wedged in at least 30 inches of snow settled around his ranch.

“Well, gall dang it. I think I’m stuck,” Hamilton said. He switched to reverse, but it didn’t budge. “Yup. I am.”

The 54-year-old sighed, mumbled under his breath and switched gears again.

The snow was high enough to strand herds of cows and bury calves who were born just days ago on Hamilton’s ranch in Hitchcock, which was one of South Dakota’s hardest hit areas by Winter Storm Wesley this week.

Hamilton had been sleeping inside the tractor for days. His concern all week was for his 1,300 breeding cows and calves. He only got four hours of sleep Thursday night after checking on them every two hours.

Despite his best efforts, he’s already lost almost eight calves to the winter storm that rolled through the state Wednesday and Thursday.

It’s one of the worst spring storms he’s ever seen, Hamilton said, and when it passes, he, along with thousands of South Dakota ranchers, will dig through snowbanks to find potentially thousands of frozen calves buried under the snow.

Related: As blizzard conditions abate, gradual snow melt is expected

More calves could be lost after storm

And ranchers will lose just as many calves after the storm as they did in its wake, Hamilton said.

He expects his calves will be impaired by the conditions forced upon them in the blizzard. The mud from melted snow this spring could string the cattle out and cause pneumonia and other sickness.

Despite the physical, mental and financial stress Hamilton and more than 15,000 South Dakota ranchers endured after the April blizzard, the aftermath is a testament to their dedication and resilience.

“I guess it makes your beef taste a lot better because you appreciate what people go through,” Hamilton said.

For Rusty Blare, a 55-year-old rancher and farmer based 25 miles north of Winner, the blizzard might take away 25 percent of his gains and profit for the year.

More: USDA census shows a decrease in number of South Dakota farms

The blizzard will stress out the calves and affect their overall production as they grow, their IMF, grade and general health. The storm was only 48 hours, but it’ll impact years worth of costs. It not only killed two calves, but it’ll delay planting season as well, he said.

“Throughout this year, we’ve lost about 12 calves out of 170 calves due to cold weather in February, the last snow storm, flooding and now this one,” Blare said. “They just came at you in waves.”

Gov. Kristi Noem stated in a press conference Friday that her staff is making sure farmers have the information they need to make “tough decisions” as they go into spring and the fields hopefully start to dry out.

“Every day that we push back planting, it impacts yields, it impacts their ability to pay their bills and so this is going to be tough. If folks were planning on corn in some areas and don’t get it planted by the middle of May, they may be planting more soybeans. It’s just another challenge that they’re going to have on top of them,” Noem said.