Stuff Happens

By David Schmidt

Reprinted from: Animal Ag

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Extreme events happen. We have floods, drought, blizzards, hurricanes and a variety of not so frequent events that can really cause problems on the farm.

The most recent of these extreme events is the snowfall near Buffalo New York. The timing was early, the snowfall was record setting, and the farm impacts were real. AgWeb posted a nice summary of the milk dumping that was required because of the inability for milk trucks to make their pickups. (Not sure why milk trucks can’t go through 8 feet of snow . . .)

Here are some other potential consequences that I and others are thinking of regarding large snowfall events:

  • Snow loads on buildings
  • Feed transport into the farms
  • Manure storage capacity and planned fall manure pumping
  • Feeding calves in the snow (employee challenges)
  • Employee’s ability to get to work
  • Downed powerlines and backup power needs
  • Pastures normally available for grazing unavailable

I am sure you can think of other impacts from this kind of event. We can also come up with a list for severe drought and flooding.

Last year about this time there was a blizzard in South Dakota that left over 7500 beef animals dead as the animals were stranded in the pastures. If you missed it, here is a good summary by National Geographic. Blizzards in South Dakota are not new but the timing was.

We could talk with climate scientists about the increasing (or decreasing) frequency or intensity of these extreme events and relationship to climate change but that is for another post.

The bottom line is that extreme events happen and farmers must prepare. Emergency response planning for extreme weather IS adaptation! Emergency response planning for extreme weather IS risk management!

  • Are we designing for or advising for what to do when the milk truck can’t make it to the farm?
  • Are we helping farmers prepare to bury large numbers of animals?
  • Are we considering the benefits of a covered manure storage for both average weather and extreme weather?
  • Have we calculated the costs and benefits of calves in individual outdoor hutches given current weather conditions and extreme events?
  • Have advised farmers on finding weak points in their feed supply chain in case of floods or blizzards?

The snow has come and gone in New York but now comes the flooding from the snow melt in the warm temperatures.

California is in the midst of long term drought but today is seeing record rainfall and flooding.

Expect (and prepare for) the unexpected when it comes to weather.

Always Considering Climate — David