Floodwaters Create ‘Situational Crisis’ for California Dairy Farmers

Brian GermanDairy & Livestock, Dairy and Livestock, Industry

Dairy Farmers

Dairy farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are working to overcome the impacts of substantial flooding. Last week’s storms have left broad swaths of Tulare County under standing water. Evacuation orders have been in effect in several areas including Alpaugh, Allensworth, Porterville, and Cutler. CEO of Western United Dairies, Anja Raudabaugh said it has been a difficult task evacuating livestock from flooded areas.

“Not everyone in California is aware of the situational crisis that’s happening in Tulare, now spreading into Kings County,” said Raudabaugh. “Our members have been underwater. We’ve had to move almost 100,000 cows at this point in emergency evacuation circumstances since Wednesday of last week.”

Moving the cows has been a “herculean” effort, according to Raudabaugh. Industry members have been largely banning together to provide assistance in transporting animals to other locations. Dairy farmers that have not been impacted by flooding are helping out by housing animals where they can. Raudabaugh said some older dairies that have shut down are now being used as “literal lifeboats” for evacuated cows. The next step is getting the cows back on some kind of milking schedule. “We are working with CDFA and the state veterinarian to turn on those milking parlors as quickly as we can getting inspections done. It’s not an easy task and it’s not ideal,” said Raudabaugh.

Dairy Farmers

Dairy farmers forced to move their cows are also looking at continued issues later in the season. The abundance of floodwaters has largely destroyed feed crops in the area.

“We’ve probably lost the entire year’s wheat crop in the south valley which really sucks because we were just coming off some pretty short feed years with the drought. Then a lot of the bagged silage and replacement hay has been lost as well,” Raudabaugh explained. “So, trying to find enough feed as these cows are relocated has been a huge challenge.”

Listen to Raudabaugh’s interview below.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West