A winter storm recently hit parts of Texas, and the blizzard conditions killed at least 20,000 cows.
Heavy snow fell on the northern part of the state on December 26th. The extent of the damage is still unknown, but the Texas Association of Dairymen estimate that ten percent of mature dairy cows in the region were killed. Also, farmers were unable to milk some of the cows for two days.
Some cattle were buried in snowdrifts formed by gale force winds. Others froze to death in the open, died of frostbite in later days or just disappeared. Initial loss estimates increased greatly in the days following the storm.
Chief executive Darren Turley said: “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.”
As for protecting the cows from the blizzard… well Texas ranchers normally let their cows graze in pastures rather than keeping them locked up in barns. The farmers have said the storm hit too suddenly for them to get their cows inside.
Another tough issue is safely disposing of the carcasses. Authorities say it will be a major challenge. They aren’t sure they can bury this many because that opens up other issues like water quality and how it impacts the land.
Many of the surviving cows will also likely give less milk for months to come. The cows are usually milked twice a day.
(sources: Twin Falls News, Chron, Weather Channel)