A clearer picture is emerging of livestock losses as a result of last week’s flooding and landslides in the Lower Mainland and southern Interior.
The good news is, it’s not all bad.
A preliminary assessment by the BC Dairy Association this week indicates that 500 cattle perished on Sumas Prairie, a fraction of the approximately 23,000 head on local dairy farms. An estimated 6,000 head were evacuated in the wake of the November 13-15 storm. Approximately 16,000 remained on their farms.
“It is a credit to the tireless work of farmers, their families and volunteers that so many cattle were saved and so few lost,” says BC Dairy chair Holger Schwichtenberg, a dairy farmer in Agassiz who hosted 43 animals on his property.
However, the losses may increase as the full impact of flooding on the 62 dairy farms evacuated becomes clear. Waters remain high at many farms, and some animals may require euthanization.
Poultry and egg producers also indicate that losses may be lower than expected.
“We believe that most of our flocks survived,” says BC Egg Marketing Board communications director Amanda Brittain, noting that just one farm lost to the disaster.
Approximately 60 egg farms accounting for just 10% of the provincial flock were in evacuation zones.
The impact on broiler farms is also anticipated to be less than feared – less, even, than losses during the dramatic heat this summer.
According to the BC Chicken Marketing Board, more than 20 broiler farms were directly impacted by the flooding. A total of 1.4 million birds were in evacuation zones.
BC Poultry Association spokesperson Ray Nickel, the industry’s emergency operations commander, expects losses to exceed 100,000 birds. A final tally won’t be known until the birds ship, but he’s optimistic that the toll will be less than the 416,146 birds lost to heat this summer.
“We’ve had some amazing stories and success,” he says, noting one large farm that had sandbagged its barn and was able to ship the most vulnerable birds even as the waters rose.
“We believe a majority of [birds] will be shipped and will come out of it,” he says.
While the BC Turkey Marketing Board expects some losses, it notes that the majority of producers were outside the flood zone.