By DEBRA J. GROOM
|Milk dumping photo courtesy DiNitto Farms|
Snow piled up so fast and the wind was so ferocious March 14 and 15 that milk trucks couldn’t get to some farms to pick up their precious, perishable cargo.
Terri DiNitto and her husband Tony milk more than 500 cows on a farm in Marcy, Oneida County. She said their milk tanks were filled from one milking and they were ready to milk the cows again at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 14 when the milk hauler said he couldn’t make it to their farm.
“The county roads were closed and he just couldn’t get here,” she said. “We got about 26 inches, but nothing was plowed. We had 10-foot drifts. The plow trucks were getting stuck.”
So the DiNittos had to dump about 2,000 gallons of milk from the earlier milking. They are not sure if they will get any money from the dumped milk.
“We’re working with DFA (Dairy Farmers of America), our co-op, and we might have to go through insurance,” DiNitto said. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
The DiNittos kept folks up to date on their situation on their Facebook page -- DiNitto Farms. Here is an entry from about 6 p.m. March 14: “Dairy farms don’t shut down during a storm. Right now we’re not sure if our milk is going to get picked up. If not ... we’ll have to dump some. We have insurance. But it’s a terrible thing to watch milk go down the drain.”
Ruth McCuin, who works for Agri-Mark, a dairy cooperative based in Andover, Mass., said five farms that supply milk to Agri-Mark had to dump milk due to the storm.
“As of today (March 16), everything is back to normal,” she said.
In addition to milk haulers not being able to get to farms, some haulers who were picking up milk had no where to take it. Both DiNitto and McCuin said so many milk plants closed that many haulers were left with trucks filled with milk and no where to go.
“When that happens, they have to call the dispatcher and see if there is any other plant that will take their milk,” McCuin said. Some large milk users, like the Chobani yogurt plant in New Berlin, Chenango County, were closed. McCuin said all of the Agri-Mark plants, that make McCadam and Cabot cheeses and other dairy products, were open and took milk.
Some milk haulers who were fortunate enough to get through to farms and pick up milk also ended up taking different routes to their destination plants.
McCuin said one hauler who picked up milk in Saratoga County jumped on the Thruway to head west to make his delivery. But the Thruway was closed to large truck traffic as of March 14, per the order of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
She said the hauler had to take the long way around from Saratoga on back roads.
She heard about another hauler already on the Thruway who was pulled over and told to get off at the next exit. When he got to the exit no one was there, so he kept going, McCuin said.
Another casualty of Winter Storm Stella was a barn in Cherry Valley, Otsego County.
According to the Oneonta Daily Star, about 10 dairy cows died after the storm’s high winds collapsed a barn on the Young farm on Dietsche Road.
Howard Young said about 250 cows were inside at the time, so the disaster could have been much worse. The Daily Star story said the collapse destroyed between 200 and 300 feet of building and trapped about 30 cows. Several of the animals died instantly and others had to be put down. No people were injured.