Yakima sits in central Washington, and the area rarely sees snow and very little rain per year. But over the weekend, between 18-24 inches of snow fell in a surprise blizzard, leaving dairy farmers to try and fend off the elements from their cows.
DFW described farmers stacking up bales of hay and barrels to block the freezing wind from their cows, which are often housed in open-air barns enclosures. But they were unequipped to deal the unprecedented amount of snow, resulting in a ‘catastrophic’ loss of cows.
Farmers also prepared by adding “extra bedding to insulate areas for cows to lay, providing extra feed and thawing water troughs with hot water.” Most of the cows died from the freezing temperatures or being crushed or trampled by other cows.
Governor of Washington Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency in the state as more snow was expected throughout this week. Beyond the sheltering of cows, farmers were struggling to keep the roads clear enough to allow milk trucks through to the farms.
A local farmer in Grandview said, “These have been the worst few days of my life. We’re just devastated. I don’t think we’ve ever been hit with weather like this.”
In between bouts of bad weather, the farmers are dealing with proper disposal of the lost cows and keeping the dairies running on schedule with what cows remain.
The DFW said, “These losses come at an already very difficult time for dairy farmers as most of them are struggling to survive the volatile market conditions. This weather will have lasting economic and emotional implications on dairy farmers across Washington State.”