Christmas blizzard stopped trucks, forces farmers to dump 1.7 million litres of milk

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reprinted with permission from Farmers Forum newspaper.

by Nelson Zandbergen,
Courtesy of Farmers Forum

Ontario dairy farmers dumped about 1.7 million litres of milk due to the Christmas weekend blizzard that left roads impassable to traffic, including the tanker trucks that pick up milk from dairy farms every other day.

Former Dairy Farmers of Ontario board member Nick Thurler estimated the volume of dumped milk at 1.7 million litres across the province. Thurler said his own farm south of Ottawa didn’t miss a pickup and didn’t have to dump milk.

However, about 40 % of Ontario dairy farms missed at least one scheduled pickup and instead emptied their bulk tanks down the drain during the “once in a generation” storm event, according to the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.

Some farmers missed two scheduled pickups as high winds, whiteout conditions and drifting snow kept milk haulers off the roads for periods of time during the major continental storm that slammed the province Dec. 23-24.

There was no impact on the supply of milk and dairy products for consumers, according to DFO.

The organization has informed producers that it will reimburse farmers that dumped milk. All producers will share the pain as DFO temporarily lowers the blend price by 2.5 cents per litre, to fund that payout. “Our ability to share in the impact of this natural occurrence is among the greatest strengths of our system,” DFO said in a statement. “While there are several key learnings through this challenging time, we remain thankful for our transporter and processor partners for trying to make the best of an extremely difficult circumstance.”

Berwick dairy farmer Theo Elshof supported the decision to share the cost of dumped milk across the DFO membership, after missing a scheduled pickup on Christmas Eve. He said his own farm dumped about 4,200 litres of more valuable Jersey milk worth about $5,000.

Newington dairy farmer Jeff Waldroff reported having to waste just over 1,800 litres of milk worth about $1,800 on Christmas Day. “I can’t begrudge them not going to pick up milk,” Waldroff observed.

“It’s a bigger problem than not just getting the milk picked up. The townships don’t have enough extra plow truck drivers,” observed Waldroff, who personally serves as a spare plow truck operator for a contractor handling area county roads.

Waldroff said it was the first time he’s had to dump milk, adding he barely managed to avoid that outcome during the 1998 Ice Storm.

“The trouble is, the trucks are so much bigger now and worth so much more money, if you put one of those upside down in the ditch … it’s not good, and safety for the driver is important,” he noted.

Inverary dairy farmer Gary Gordon said his farm fortunately skipped no pickups, though he knew of two nearby robotic producers that weren’t so lucky and had to empty their bulk tanks. Gordon said that roads were terrible in his neck of the woods during the storm, with 5 tractor trailers ditched just east of the farm. A milk truck also went into the ditch, requiring its cargo to be pumped into another truck, he said.

“For a good 40 hours, we couldn’t see anything,” Gordon said of the blizzard.

While DFO says it has a policy of allowing farmers to store up to three days milk in the event of a missed pickup, Gordon said that producers were told to empty their tanks completely if the milk truck failed to show up.

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