A recent winter storm that hit western Texas and eastern New Mexico killed about 35,000 dairy cows in the region. However, despite the devastating loss to dairy farmers, the incident is not expected to make a significant dent in the dairy supply for Texas or the nation.
Darren Turley, executive director of the Texas Association of Dairymen, told Spend Matters dairy farmers are focusing on getting their cows reacclimated and in a better physical state so they can begin producing milk at the same levels as before the storm. Despite the high number of dairy cow deaths across the region and the slowdown in production, Turley said the dairy supply chain should not experience of shortage as a result of the incident.
About 20,000 dairy cows died in the storm in New Mexico and about 15,000 in Texas, according to Turley. That number is not expected to rise at this point, Turley said. The deaths represent between 5-10% of the dairy cows in the region. However, Turley said the lost dairy cows did not account for a large enough portion of the dairy supply chain to make impact on the market. Consumers won’t likely see any dairy shortages as result, Turley said. Most dairy farms in the area are back in operation as is milk production, he added.
The blizzard dropped more than a foot of snow on the region, leaving snow drifts as high as 14 feet. Some dairy cows were buried alive in the drifts, while others froze to death during the storm. Farmers also had trouble rescuing animals during the storm and couldn’t reach calves inside hutches, The New York Times reported.
Another challenge facing dairy farmers is figuring out how to dispose of the dead cows.
“The immediate challenge is how to handle these sudden, massive losses of animals,” Turley said in a press release. “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.”