1,600 Cows Perish In Winter Storm, Dairy Farmers Report

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YAKIMA, WA – As many as 1,600 dairy cows have died in Eastern Washington’s Yakima Valley due to the harsh conditions caused by the ongoing winter storm, which has brought freezing temperatures, snow, and 80 mph winds across huge swaths of the state since early February.

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According to the Dairy Farmers of Washington, Yakima Valley dairy famers have faced considerable challenges since the storm hit, requiring them to take extra measures to keep their livestock safe.

“These have been the worst few days of my life,” a Grandview dairy farmer said. “We’re just devastated. I don’t think we’ve ever been hit with weather like this.”

Currently 28 degrees and snowing in Yakima, the famers’ troubles do not appear remotely close to ending, with National Weather Service forecasts calling for more snow and overnight lows that could drop into the teens through at least Sunday, Feb. 17.

Despite the current weather system and the one forecasters expect for the next week, the dairy farmers and their teams are working diligently to protect their animals. From adding extra bedding to insulate the areas where the cows might lay to stacking hay bales as windbreaks, the dairy farmers are putting in countless hours to keep their cows alive.

“Saturday was brutal. We put in a 36-hour day, but we’ve been fortunate. I’ve spent a lot of time helping my fellow dairy farmers and supporting what they’re going through,” Sunnyside dairy farmer Markus Rollinger said. “My brother and I are trying to keep roads plowed for our employees and the milk trucks.”

The employees, dairy farmers agree, have really been the heroes of the past week.

“Without our employees, there’s no way we, or our cows could survive this storm,” Prosser dairy farmer Alyssa Haak said. “I give a lot of credit to our milk truck drivers, too. Without their bravery, we wouldn’t be able to get our milk off the farm.”

Road closures due to crashes, debris, and fallen trees have been commonplace during the storm, along with civic closures, such as schools and government offices. In response, Gov. Jay Inslee declared Washington in a state of emergency in order to redirect state resources where they’re needed most.

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