Dairy farmers in Texas and New Mexico are struggling after a winter storm killed more than 30,000 dairy cows last week.
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Goliath ripped through the Midwest and Northeast bringing snow, ice, and wind gusts as high as 80 miles per hour, causing the suffocation of thousands of animals that were buried in snow drifts.
The storm also resulted in the loss of “hundreds of loads of milk” that were ready to be processed but couldn’t be because farmers weren’t able to get to the cows, according to Darren Turley, executive director of the Texas Association of Dairymen.
“When a dairy cow goes that long without being milked, her milk supply starts to dry up,” Turley said. “That means the dairy cows in this region will give less milk for months to come. Less milk going to market will be felt by consumers, as well as by dairy farmers.”
Turley says the impact of this storm will be felt well into the future, from a reduction to the state’s milk supply, to daily financial losses, to the emotional impact on farmers who lost their animals.
“Like all agriculture, dairy producers always operate at the mercy of Mother Nature,” Turley said. “With Goliath, she dealt a particularly harsh and costly blow to the area’s dairy producers, from the death of thousands of livestock they spend so much time caring for, to a loss of milk production both over the weekend and in the future.”
Turley estimates the regions that were hit the hardest includes half of the state’s top ten milk producing counties which are home to about 36% of the state’s dairy cows. He says it’s still too early to fully examine the complete impact of this storm and estimates losses will continue to climb over the next few weeks.
“The immediate challenge is how to handle these sudden, massive losses of animals,” Turley said. “The ordinary methods for disposal cannot handle the volume of deaths we are seeing from this storm. The Texas Association of Dairymen is working with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and other agencies to determine how the animals can be disposed of both quickly and safely.”