Nine straight days of triple-digit temperatures wreaked havoc on California cattle, specifically in Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties. It is too soon for officials to determine exactly how many cows were lost, but estimates are close to 10,000.
The situation was exacerbated by a machinery malfunction slowing the rendering process at Baker Commodities Rendering Plant in Kerman. Carcasses were no longer being accepted at the facility, prompting the declaration of a state of emergency to afford farmers other means of disposal.
State law prevents the on-site burial of cattle carcasses because of the potential public health risks involved such as vector-borne disease and groundwater contamination. The declaration gave farmers the option to bury or compost carcasses under strict guidelines.
The Baker facility was processing nearly 1.5 million pounds per day, an increase of 50 percent compared to normal circumstances. It is the only rendering plant in the area which spans, Tulare, Fresno, Madera, Kings and Kern counties. Baker is scheduled to resume normal operations and will begin picking up carcasses today.
The area is preparing for another upcoming heatwave beginning this weekend. The forecast calls for cooler overnight temperatures which should allow dairy cows to recover from the heat, so loses should be considerably less.