Snow forces milk dumping

SUE O'DOWD
Last updated 05:00 16/08/2011

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Six hundred Taranaki dairy farmers will have to dump milk after Fonterra decided snow-covered roads were too dangerous for its tankers yesterday.

Staff were working with farmers on disposal methods but the company did not know how much milk was involved, a Fonterra spokesperson said. Farmers would still be paid.

Fonterra requires milk to be disposed of if it is still in the vat after four milkings.

A decision will be made early this morning on whether milk collection will go ahead today.

The company's Eltham site was closed, but milk collected on Sunday was processed at Whareroa, near Hawera, yesterday.

The snow proved challenging for farmers, who had to get newborn calves to shelter and to negotiate snow-covered paddocks to feed cows and get them to the cowshed.

Feed is likely to be scarce, so DairyNZ is organising supplementary feed for farms where cattle will have trouble finding grass.

Consulting officer Katrina Knowles wants to create a database of farmers with surplus supplement.

"Feed shortages could be an ongoing issue for high-altitude farmers who will have snow lying on the ground for a few days," she said.

She advised farmers to give their animals high-energy feed.

Once the snow melted, they should consider standing their cows off to protect pasture.

Mahoe dairy farmer Hannah Topless said yesterday was the first time she had not been excited to see snow.

She and husband Greg, who are in the middle of calving their 144-cow herd, had two dead calves on Sunday night. Mrs Topless was knee-deep in snow when she went to feed their calves yesterday morning and had to defrost the calf-feeder and the teats.

"But we were fortunate we had power and Greg could still milk," she said.

Alecia Lawrence said the Fraser Rd farm near Eltham where she and husband Hayden are sharemilkers had received lots of snow and the couple were focusing on feeding their cows.

"We're lucky we have the feed pad to stand them off," she said. "We're worried about having enough supplement."

The couple, almost halfway through calving their 240-cow herd, were pleased they decided to calve their cows inside on Sunday night. "Otherwise we would have lost calves," she said. `We expected snow – but not this much."

Stratford vet Craig Hassell advised farmers to monitor calving cows and to collect calves promptly from paddocks.

Farmers with spare feed or who require supplement can contact Mrs Knowles on 021 831 944.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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