Dairy producers in Texas and New Mexico have estimated that the number of animals that died during the recent Winter Storm Goliath will climb to more than 30,000.
The winds are believed to be the cause for many of the animals’ deaths. It created drifts as high as 14 feet and pushed animals into fenced corners where they suffocated, according to The Associated Press.
“As Winter Storm Goliath wrapped up over the southern Plains, strong winds were associated with the storm’s tightening pressure gradient,” said weather.com meteorologist Quincy Vagell. “When combined with snow, the winds were strong enough to create dangerous blizzard conditions.”
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Executive director of the Texas Association of Dairymen Darren Turley said that an estimated 15,000 mature dairy cows died between Lubbock, Muleshoe and Friona, the primary impact area of the storm, AP also reports. This region includes the home of half the state’s top 10 milk-producing counties, which provide 40 percent of Texas’ milk.
According to an agent with New Mexico State University’s extension service, the state lost an estimated 20,000 cows.
“Like all agriculture, dairy producers always operate at the mercy of Mother Nature,” said Turley. “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.”
He says the losses will affect production for about a year.
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A press release from the Texas Association of Dairymen (TAD) said that, during the storm, dairy employees and tanker trucks were unable to reach farms, causing hundreds of loads of milk ready for processing to go to waste. Some of the cows normally milked twice a day went almost two days without being milked, according to Turley, and that alone can have an impact on the farm.
“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.”
The Texas producers are working with state environmental officials to find ways to dispose of the bodies of the animals, according to AP. Some counties are allowing them to put carcasses in their landfills.
Additionally, TAD is working with the Texas Governor’s Office, the Texas Department of Agriculture and other state and federal agencies to determine whether affected dairy farmers will receive financial assistance, according to the press release.