Loss of cattle killed in blizzard nearly $4 million

Annette Cary
Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

KENNEWICK, Wa. — The latest estimate for the value of about 1,800 cows that died in blizzard conditions the weekend of Feb. 9-10 in Eastern Washington is $3.5 million to $4 million, says the Washington State Dairy Federation.

The estimate includes only the cost of replacing the animals, not the future production farmers lost from the animals, said Dan Wood, executive director of the federation.

Although some farmers had insurance, it will not cover their full costs, he said.

About 12 to 15 Eastern Washington dairy farms had substantial losses, most of them in the Grandview and Sunnyside area west of the Tri-Cities, he said.

On Feb. 20, Gov. Jay Inslee made $100,000 in emergency funding available to help Lower Yakima Valley farmers haul the dead cattle to an Oregon landfill.

Help available for disposal

Some dairy producers were able to handle the carcasses on their own. Several farmers elected to contact rendering companies, and other farmers, especially those with the largest number of dead animals, are electing to have a solid waste company haul and dispose of the remains.

The work was expected to be competed on Feb. 20, according to the governor’s office.

Many of the deaths were in open areas and remote portions of the farms, according to the governor’s office.

Most removal could not start before the weather improved, and then work needed to be done quickly to protect public health and the environment.

Inslee declared a state of emergency before the storm.

“The storm hit Washington state hard, particularly in the heart of our state’s dairy industry,” he said on Feb. 20. “Through quick regulatory assistance and emergency funding, we are making every effort to help farmers with their response to this tragic event.”

Some farmers worked 36 hours straight to clear roads, put up windbreaks and provide feed and bedding, Wood said.

The dairy industry was fortunate not to have any farmer or farm worker seriously injured, he said.

Industry officials said that in some cases livestock huddled together, resisting efforts to herd them toward milking barns or other shelter, and some animals were trampled. Other cows lay down and froze when they couldn’t get back up.