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Drought Guidance for Dairy Producers

Chris Brunner, March 17, 2014

Holstein dairy cow and calfThe current drought may actually be the longest, most severe drought in California in the last 500 years. This winter season remains the driest since record keeping began in the 1800s.  Snow pack remains at about 20% of normal and most farmers are looking at little to no water deliveries.

These statistics according to Dr. Mike Payne, dairy outreach coordinator at the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, and director of the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP), point to the looming crisis California dairy producers face. Payne says that one estimate places lost revenue from farming and related businesses in California as high as $5 billion  If there be little relief from Mother Nature in the 2015 rainfall season, the prospect of the devastating effects to California’s dairy industry are immeasurable.  Skyrocketing feed costs and ultimately more California dairy producers going out of business will likely lead to higher retail prices for dairy products at the supermarket.  A dwindling dairy industry will result in the loss of jobs in rural communities as well as to the dairy processing industry in the state.

The CDQAP is a voluntary partnership between dairy producers, government agencies and academia to promote the health of consumers, the health of the environment and the health and welfare of dairy animals, is ramping up drought-related outreach which will include workshops, assistance application sessions and on-line resources. The goal of its webpage devoted to drought concerns is to sift through the surge of drought-related announcements and information, bringing back that which is relevant to California dairy producers. Information will continue to develop through the year, as will the outreach to dairy producers struggling with critically limited water resources.

Stay informed of current drought meetings, deadlines for drought assistance programs, CDFA and USDA announcements, and publications such as the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory’s UC Whitepaper on Drought-Related Feed Toxicity on the CDQAP website.

Check back at WIFSS Outreach for updates on the drought crisis and other outreach and extension-related projects underway by WIFSS research and scientific staff.