US winter storm Goliath storm will have a lingering affect on Texas’ milk supply, according to Darren Turley, Executive Director of the Texas Association of Dairymen.
It was estimated that more than 30,000 dairy cattle were killed in the New Mexico and Texas states recently.
Turley said that the effects of the storm on the Texas dairy industry will be felt well into the future.
These effects will range from a reduction in the state’s milk supply to dairy financial losses to the emotional impact on farmers of losing their animals, he said.
“Like all agriculture, dairy producers always operate at the mercy of Mother Nature.
“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.”
It wasn’t until Tuesday that many dairy producers in the primary impact area – from Lubbock west to Muleshoe and north to Friona (roughly areas south of Interstate 40) – were able to safely walk among their cows and survey the situation, Turley said.
Turley estimates the region – which includes half of the state’s top 10 milk producing counties – is home to about 36% of the state’s dairy cows, or an estimated 142,800 cows.
He estimates that the blizzard killed about 5% of mature dairy cows and an as-yet unknown number of calves and heifers.
With producers unable to fully examine their herds, Turley estimates losses will continue to climb.
“The immediate challenge is how to handle these sudden, massive losses of animals.
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.”
In addition, the association stated that it is working with the Texas Governor’s Office, the Texas Department of Agriculture and other state and federal agencies to determine whether financial assistance is available for impacted dairy farmers.
Turley warned that the storm will have a lingering affect on the state’s milk supply.
During the storm, weather conditions and road closures both kept dairy employees, who normally milk the animals twice a day, and tanker trucks, which transport the milk from dairy to processor, from reaching farms, according to the association.
Not only were hundreds of loads of milk ready for processing wasted, but, on some farms, cows went almost two days without being milked.
“When a dairy cow goes that long without being milked, her milk supply starts to dry up.
“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.”