Officials expect that more than 30,000 died in the winter storm last weekend in Texas and New Mexico.
Darren Turley, executive director at Texas Association of Dairymen, said that an estimated 15,000 mature dairy cows died in the storm’s primary impact area — from Lubbock west to Muleshoe and north to Friona.
The winter storm, Goliath, packed a powerful punch to the heart of the Texas dairy industry that will be felt well into the future, from a reduction in the state’s milk supply to dairy financial losses to the emotional impact on farmers of losing their animals, according to Turley.
“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 that the region – from Lubbock west to Muleshoe and north to Friona including 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.
Turley said that the blizzard is estimated to kill about 5% of mature dairy cows and an as-yet unknown number of calves and heifers. As producers are able 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,” 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, 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, according to Turley.
As a result of animal deaths, there would be a big impact on the milk supply in Texas, warns Turley.