Down power, wind damage and dairy cows trapped in Irma’s wake
Last week we reported Florida dairy farmers were preparing for Hurricane Irma. Over the weekend, farmers continued preparation and as Irma made landfall on Sunday, many were ready for the worst but hoping for the best. Some farms made it through the storm with limited damage and others suffered greatly.
As the damage reports start to roll in, it’s clear that the further south and west farms were, the more damage they suffered. Irma, which made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 3 hurricane and continued to be downgraded as she moved North, skirted her way up the Florida coast line on Sunday. On H.C. dairy farm in Lakeside, east of Tampa, a freestall barn completely collapsed. On Monday morning rescue crews were working to get more than 400 milking cows out of the ruble.
To the southeast, near Okecheebee, the Rucks family is counting their blessings and the number of days their farm might have to run on generator power alone.
“Everyone at Milking R, both cow and human are safe and weathered the storm without life threatening damage,” they wrote on their Facebook page. “We will be doing cleanup for the next several weeks and it will be several days before everyone is back on their normal schedule.”
They anticipate being without power until the middle of next week. They are able to run the dairy with their generators, except the fans in the freestall barn. Milk production may suffer from both the stress and Florida’s brutal humidity.
“We know things could be so much worse and are truly thankful that we are all safe and unharmed,” they wrote.
Just down the road, one of the Larson family dairies had roof damage and was running on generator power. The other sustained some wind damage but was still running on grid power.
Still, cows must get milked if possible. On M&B farm outside of Tampa, the barn is back up running and cows are being milked.