BC flood: Milk producers’ resilience is tested

Vancouver –

Farmers in southern British Columbia are teaming up to save livestock as parts of the Fraser Valley remain submerged from devastating floods, says a member of the association representing the province’s dairy farmers.

Holger Schwichtenberg, chairman of the board of the BC Dairy Association, said he was not yet sure how many farmers were working to relocate their dairy cows, but in such situations they would reach out for help getting their animals away from the place.

He said 25 to 30 cows were transported to his own farm in Agassiz on Tuesday from another farm in Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver.

“This is an example of an industry that comes together when things get really ugly,” Schwichtenberg said. “We’re doing the best we can with the situation we’ve got and it’s a tough one.”

Moving livestock is time consuming and stressful for the animals and humans involved.

“You have trucks, you have neighbors, you have the one that has a pickup truck or something to pull cattle in, and you start moving them to higher terrain, or you’ve taken steps to get them away from the place,” Schwichtenberg said.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun described some of the livestock rescue efforts taking place in his Fraser Valley community during a news conference announcing an evacuation order for 1,100 homes in the Sumas Prairie area.

Braun said Tuesday he witnessed residents using motorboats to pull cows out of stables flooded with water. People tried to put calves in boats and trudged through cold water to make sure their animals were not left behind, he said.

“They want to protect their animals. Many would give their lives for their animals,” Braun told reporters.

“It breaks my heart to see what happens to those farmers.”

The mayor said he is also concerned that livestock feed may run out.

“We have thousands and thousands of dairy cows on the prairie.”

Schwichtenberg had not yet heard of the loss of animals, but he said this week’s floods have put a strain on the industry, which is still suffering from a catastrophic summer.

“We had a long, hot summer, we had a very bad growing season, unless you had irrigation, the persistent effects of COVID, and now we have this situation,” he said.

“It tests the resilience of dairy farmers, that’s for sure.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 17, 2021.

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