June 24, 2017 12:03 AM By Jennifer McGraw
LODI (CBS13) – The heat wave is impacting California dairy cows in a big way.
“This has been brutal,” said Hank Van Exel, second generation farmer.
He has 6,000 head of cattle on his Lodi Dairy farm and has been running misters and fans around the clock trying to keep them cool.
“They’re still hurting; you see them all bunched up like this. Usually, they’re all laying down,” he said.
Unfortunately, three have died this week. Others are showing a loss of appetite, and milk production has dropped 16 percent.
“On Sunday we lost almost 4,000 gallons,” Van Exel said.
In the Central Valley farmers reported losing dozens, which means across the state hundreds of cattle lost just this week.
With this heat there’s not much else he can do.
“You can brace for it but what are you gonna do? You can’t just say well we’re going to bring in air conditioners because I couldn’t afford that,” he said.
Dairy is California’s largest agricultural industry, generating more than $6 billion a year in revenue. Just losing a small percentage of annual output could end up costing millions.
“It’s going to have a significant effect in the whole state on milk production,” Van Exel added.
So what impact will this have on your next gallon of milk?
“You won’t feel it. You’re not gonna see that, that’s kind of on us,” he said.
It’s another setback for farmers already hit hard.
“It’s been pretty challenging. We’ve gone from a drought to probably one of the roughest winters for the dairy business,” he said.
Van Exel just hopes this isn’t the movement of the future and his next generation has the incentive to keep milking.
“That’s one thing you can’t do in the dairy business, you have to take what Mother Nature gives you when you have the weather you just gotta, that’s farming, and I hate saying it,” he added.
Van Exel’s farm also suffered damage during this winter’s storms when the alfalfa he grows to feed his cows was wiped away by the floods. So much so, he’s going to purchase crop insurance before the rain hits.