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Stanwood dairy farmer works to keep cows alive in cold, snowy & windy conditions

STANWOOD, Wash. – All of this cold, windy weather is really taking a toll on our agriculture industry. We’re seeing overnight lows and gusty winds blowing out our farms, crops and livestock.  In Yakima Valley, the Washington Dairy Farm Association says some 1,800 cows died in the winter storms this month.

On one of the Natural Milk Family of Farms in Stanwood, you’ll find thousands of cows this fourth-generation farm is trying to keep alive and healthy this winter.  It’s the number one goal for co-owner Jeremy Visser.

calves in jackets on stanwood dairy farm

Wrapped in jackets, under heat lamps, packed in hay, Farmer Jeremy Visser works to keep calves, less than 12 hrs old, alive in cold, snowy conditions.

“If it’s going to be below 25 degrees for us, we know we’re going to need to make serious preparations. And anytime you’re going to see winds over 30 mph you’re going to need to have serious preparations as well,” said Visser.

So his team put up a curtain to break the violent wind whipping through the open barns.

“Even with that, wind will find a crack in there,” said Visser.

That’s what happened in the Yakima Valley. 1,800 cows are dead after brutal storms swept through.

“We started finding the cows and then we had to start worrying about the cows that were living,” said J&K Dairy Co-Owner Jason Sheehan.

It’s the worst case scenario for a dairy farmer.

“I’m not aware of any insurance that’s out there to cover the financial aspects of it, the emotional aspects of it are debilitating,” said Sheehan.

So Visser says they’re stepping up and winterizing the farm.

“We have some insulated troughs that try to keep the heat of the water in there,” said Visser.

Cows need consistent water supply so Visser says when it gets too cold out, they turn up that water pressure to make sure it keeps flowing.

“I’m still going around with a wrench, a hammer, and a torch a lot of times trying to break ice and heat up pipes and make sure they’re continuing to flow and that seems to be an every morning and every evening experience in this weather,” said Visser.

More feed is on hand because cows eat more in the winter as a natural insulator.

It’s the calves, less than 12 hours old, who need even more attention.

“We do have heat lamps, we try to wrap them up and keep them as clean and as dry as possible and obviously warm,” said Visser.

There are no off days for dairy farmers; no matter how cold, icy, snowy, or brutal the weather.  Cows need to be milked three times a day at the Stanwood farm and they do so while standing on a heated milking parlor floor.

“No one likes to see animals suffer in any environment,” said Visser.

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