MONTPELIER, Vt. — Some dairy farmers in northwestern Vermont will suffer long-term losses because of this month’s ice storm.
Thirty-seven dairy farms in Grand Isle County alone lost between 500,000 and 750,000 pounds of milk in the extended power outage, said Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Ken Becker.
“There was a fair amount of milk that didn’t go to market,” Becker said.
And throughout the Champlain Valley, farms that lost power for more than a day will suffer a long-term drop in production, officials said.
The ice storm Jan. 7-9 cut power to more than 30,000 Vermont customers for as long as 10 days in northwestern Vermont.
The power outage hit farmers in several ways.
Without power to run their milking machines, many farmers could not milk all their cows. Cows generally produce too much milk to be milked by hand, said Glenn Rogers, a business management specialist with the University of Vermont Extension Service.
Because cows could not be milked regularly, there were widespread cases of minor mastitis, an inflammation of the udder, Rogers said. There were also some cases of severe mastitis. In the worst cases, some cows died or were shipped for slaughter, he said.
Cows that suffered from mastitis will recover slowly, said Byron Moyer, dairy section chief with the state Agriculture Department.
“There will be a long-term effect on some producers,” he said, noting that some farms face a loss of up to 2 percent of their gross annual income.
“On any farm that was unable to milk their cows for greater than one day, there will be an impact,” Moyer said.
Farmers who did not have generators also had no way of keeping their milk cool. And with roads impassable, it was not always possible to ship the milk to processors.
The losses in Grand Isle County are equal to approximately 15 to 20 tractor- trailer loads of milk that could not be picked up or processed, said Moyer.
Patrick Cleary, a spokesman for the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, which collects milk from 600 farms, said it might help the farmers that could not ship milk because of the roads.
“The Cooperative is trying to assess what the losses are … and what they can do to help farmers to deal with their losses,” Cleary said.