A preliminary assessment by the BC Dairy Association (BC Dairy) has found that of the approximately 23,000 cattle in the Abbotsford and Yarrow areas, 500 died in the flooding.
In a press release issued Tuesday (Nov. 23), the association said an estimated 6,000 cattle were evacuated to other farms in the Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Agassiz areas and are being cared for there, while some 16,000 remained on their own farms.
“It is possible the number of deceased cattle may rise should more flooding occur or more animals need to be euthanized due to health problems caused by the flooding,” BC Dairy said.
Sixty-two farms in the Abbotsford and Yarrow areas were under evacuation orders at the peak last week.
BC Dairy chair and dairy farmer Holger Schwichtenberg said the association is working with the province, transport companies, farmers, and volunteers to ensure cattle remaining on impacted farms are housed, fed and watered.
He said significant amounts of grain and supplies have been transported to the affected farms.
“While just one cow perishing in a natural disaster is disheartening, it is a credit to the tireless work of farmers, their families and volunteers that so many cattle were saved and so few lost,” Schwichtenberg said.
He and his family operate one of the dozens of dairy farms which have taken in cattle from the flooded farms, ensuring they are housed, fed, and milked until able to return to their home farms.
Schwichtenberg said approximately 80 per cent of milk being produced on B.C. farms is now being picked up for processing, which is sufficient to meet the province’s immediate demand for fluid milk.
The BC Milk Marketing Board had to suspend milk pickup at farms in a number of regions of last Tuesday (Nov. 16) due to the flooding and road closures. That created some difficulty supplying milk to fluid processing plants in B.C.
Schwichtenberg said milk from the Okanagan and Kootenays is temporarily being shipped for processing in Alberta until the situation on Highway 3 improves and milk can again be transported to the Lower Mainland for processing.
Milk from farms in the eastern Fraser Valley is being trucked along Highway 7, adding four to five hours to the drive time.
“That is, however, straining the transportation fleet so transport companies are not able to pick up all milk produced in the Fraser Valley. That likely won’t improve until Highway 1 through Abbotsford reopens,” Schwichtenberg said.
He said the farms still flooded in the Sumas Prairie represent about 14 per cent of the province’s milk volume.