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Central Valley Dairy Farmers Plot Plan B In Case Of Flooding

Russ Allison Loar / Flickr

Russ Allison Loar / Flickr

Milton O'Haire is Stanislaus County Agricultural Commissioner. He's keeping an eye on the 100-year flood plain along the San Joaquin River and the Tuolumne River.

The area is home to six cow dairies and one goat dairy.

"There's some concern there if they have to be evacuated under an emergency as far as where we could we get those animals to," says O'Haire.

"One of the dairies has already evacuated because they've seen the flooding. But we still have five cow dairies that are holding fast."

O'Haire says Stanislaus County is encouraging folks in areas at-risk for flooding to contact dairymen further away to see if they have extra space in case dairy cows need to be re-located.

There are also regional dairies that went under during the Great Recession. O'Haire says they are shuttered now but they could be ramped back into operation in short order.

Still, he points out that re-locating dairy cows is more challenging than simply moving cattle off the range.

"If they're wet cows, they need to be milked every day, at least once a day. You can't just take them out to the fairgrounds," says O'Haire.

In neighboring San Joaquin County, dairy farmer Frank Teicheira's family operates a dairy about three miles from the San Joaquin River. They saw a foot of water in the yard when the levee broke in 1997.

So, a few years ago, Teicheira hired a guy with an excavator to build his own levee to protect his dairy from flooding.

"It's like a ditch - you put dirt up on top. It's probably a four to five foot levee around the dairy," says Teicheira.

He hopes his little berm will hold up in case of flooding. His Plan B would be to move the cows about 15 miles to Tracy.

But that option would be too costly.

Last time he moved the herd Teicheira says it took his cows nearly a year to resume normal milk production.

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