Power outages caused by the devastating winter storm in Texas put some dairy farmers in crisis situations, forcing them to dump milk as processing plants shut down. The impact from the storm has brought up concerns of long-term production delays and ripple effects on supply.

Cornell University agricultural economist, Christopher Wolf, says Texas farmers who lost power for milkings may see prolonged lower production rates given possible negative health impacts for dairy cows. He adds while it’s possible there will be milk shortages in Texas and the surrounding regions, national milk production levels have been high, so most U.S. consumers will not see supply issues caused by the storm.

Wolf says: 

“Weather events that result in loss of power and/or shut down highway travel have implications up and down the dairy supply chain. 

“When farms lose power, unless there is a backup generator, cows will miss one or more milkings. This results in not just lost milk on the days without power but lost production in future days, weeks and months because of the health problems that can follow. Following Winter Storm Goliath in 2015, milk production was lower for months in the affected regions as more cows were culled.

“If plants lose power this can mean more dumping of milk even if the farms have power and can milk the cows. Milk can only be kept for so long before it must be pasteurized and bottled.

“Nationally, we have been at high milk production levels in recent months and have large stocks of many dairy products and most U.S. consumers will not notice the dairy issues caused by this weather and power event.

“It is certainly possible that there will be local milk shortages as regional plants and farms cannot get milk to market and road conditions make it difficult to bring in milk from elsewhere. Local shortages may contribute to higher prices. This is most likely to affect beverage milk.” 

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