By Shirin Rajaee

LODI (CBS13) — The dangerous heat across California is also impacting the dairy and cattle industry.

Last year, the heat killed thousands of cows across the state and while some ranchers were reimbursed by the feds for their losses, others just had to soak up the cost including a local dairyman.

Hank Van Exel has been milking cows his whole life and seen a fair share of heat waves, but last year proved to be one of the worst.

“If this stays it’s going to be catastrophic,” he said pointing to the temperature on Wednesday at 103 degrees.

Soaring temperatures in the triple digits put a stress on his 6,000 head heard, 10 died and another 40 cows were lost from production.

His losses weren’t great enough for government assistance, unlike thousands of others across the state.

“There was an extreme heat event that caused a number of livestock to pass away and to die,” said Aubrey Bettencourt with the USDA.

She says it’s the first time since 2006 the Livestock Indemnity Program has had to really step in.

“This program gets associated with disasters such as wildfire or flooding.”

Paying out 29 producers in 6 counties statewide $1.5 million.

“They have to prove that they are documented cause of loss wasn’t because of negligence, but because of an extreme heat event,” she said.

“Some people might be complaining that we have in an indemnity program that they are talking about, but they need to realize that we are the cheapest product milk, price-wise, in the United States,” Van Exel added.

He says you won’t feel the impact with your next gallon of milk, the farmers do.

Thousands spent on fans, misters, and 24-hour care out of pocket.

“We are really struggling to survive right now,” he said.

Struggling to keep checks balanced and these cool cows happy.

“Our motto is, take care of the cows and they’ll take care of you, and that’s what we try to do,” he said.

They’re also taking a hit with the milk production.

Dairy is the number one ag industry in the state and cows are hot they don’t eat. Therefore they’re not producing milk.

Farmers say they need all the assistance they can get.

Shirin Rajaee


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