Louisiana’s dairy farms, mostly located in the Florida parishes of Tangipahoa, Washington and St. Helena, apparently have been hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.
Dr. Gary Hay of the LSU AgCenter’s Dairy Science Department said milk producers were forced to dump milk this week because they were without enough electric power to operate their coolers, and trucks were unable to pick up the milk from farms.
Milk pickup started to resume Tuesday and Wednesday, Hay said. Of the six milk processing plants in Southeast Louisiana, four were operating, and two others were down because of lack of power or water.
"We don’t know what the situation is, exactly," Hay said. "We’re positive there’s damage, but we’re not sure how much. We’re sure things are going to be very bad."
Hay said the immediate concern is for the infrastructure – physical damage to facilities and no electricity for milking the cows and cooling milk. He said he heard reports of barns having roofs blown off, and milking equipment and feed mills were unable to operate without electric power.
"This will be another serious economic blow to the dairy industry, which has already been facing rising costs, stagnant milk prices and increasing economic pressure during the past decade," Hay said.
According to the LSU AgCenter’s 2004 Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 308 Louisiana dairy farms produced milk worth $77.4 million in on-farm value. In the Florida parishes alone, more than 250 farms produced milk worth more than $62 million last year.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture