California Heat Wave Kills Thousands of Cattle and Overwhelms Dairy Industry
- The heat wave caused an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 livestock deaths in June.
- The staggering number of carcasses have overwhelmed facilities that properly dispose of them.
- A local state of emergency allowing dairy farmers to bury or compost the carcasses has been extended.
9 July, 2017
Thousands of cattle have died in California as a heat wave continues to bake the state.
California's Central Valley has dealt with two bouts of prolonged triple-digit heat since mid-June, according to weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce. Fresno observed nine consecutive days with afternoon readings in the 100s during the second half of June. Saturday marked the sixth day in a row with highs above the century mark in this latest heat wave to begin July, and it's expected to continue through much of the week head.
A local state of emergency allowing dairy farmers to bury or compost hundreds of carcasses was declared on June 30 in San Joaquin Valley, the Porterville Recorder reports. The order was extended due to the increase in deaths, however, which has become an overwhelming issue.
“Cow mortality, that happens every day,” Tulare County assistant agricultural commissioner Tom Tucker told the Reporter. “It’s the heat that has made it worse.
It hasn’t stopped. We are losing our cows, and it is at an extreme.”
An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 livestock deaths due to the heat were recorded in June, Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner Les Wesley told KGPE-TV.
The staggering number of carcasses has caused malfunctions at rendering plants, which do daily pickups of dead livestock to convert their tissue into useful materials.
Baker Commodities, a local facility, had to stop picking up from farms due to an overload at the plant, according to the Fresno Bee.
The facility normally processes about 1 million pounds of animal tissue per day, Fresno County Department of Public Health environmental health division manager Wayne Fox told the Bee. It had to push its capacity to 1.5 million pounds per day before a daylong machinery malfunction significantly impacted the rendering process.
Baker is the only rendering plant in the area that spans across Tulare, Fresno, Kerns, Kings and Madera counties, according to the Recorder.
Once the animals decompose to a certain point, they can no longer be rendered. If the carcasses are not properly disposed of, they can trigger a number of public health risks such as groundwater contamination.
Rendering plants have cleared out their backlogs and have resumed their pickups, however, if the carcasses are too decomposed they will have to be taken to a local landfill, according to the Reporter. If farmers are unable to have the bodies transported to the landfill, they will either have to bury the bodies or compost them, which may require a permit.
California livestock owners saw a similar heat-related disaster in 2006 when San Joaquin Valley farmers lost nearly $300 million in dead livestock. In Kings County, 1,834 milk cows valued at $3.7 million died, reports the Associated Press.
Officials have not yet issued a release informing farmers on the best way to get rid of the carcasses.