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19,000 Texas Dairy, Beef Cattle Lost in Winter Storm Goliath

Dairy farmers and cattle ranchers in Texas and New Mexico are still assessing losses and searching for missing livestock after winter storm Goliath’s blizzard conditions terrorized their operations. An estimated 15,000 dairy cows were killed in the storm, according to the Texas Association of Dairymen (TAD). After originally estimating upwards of 6,000 beef cattle fatalities, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) now believes that around 4,000 beef cattle lost their lives due to the storm. 

“Right now, our farmers are still recovering,” said Kirsten Voinis, a TAD spokesperson. “They’re checking their cows for any other health impacts they may have suffered while out in the snow and are working on disposal of carcasses right now as the system is overwhelmed.”

Although 19,000 combined beef and dairy cattle were killed in the state of Texas alone, many animals are still missing. Nearly 20,000 stocker cattle and calves were reported missing right after the storm, but since then those numbers are thought to have significantly improved. Ranchers are continuing to receive assistance from the TSCRA’s special rangers, commissioned through the Texas Department of Safety, and from many other organizations—like the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and the USDA’s disaster relief programs. 

Just after the storm began on Dec. 26, a rancher from Friona, Texas, created a Facebook page called “Cattle Lost and Found” to help producers locate their livestock after the blizzard conditions ceased. The page, with over 4,400 likes, is still being used by cattle producers to identify and locate cattle. Brands and ear tags have been very helpful to these efforts. 

“It’s a good example of how social media can actually by used for a good benefit to these ranchers,” said Laramie Adams, TSCRA director of public affairs. “I think the amount of people that are liking it speaks to the benefit that it has had. It’s another way ranchers are working together to locate cattle.”

Financially, it’s still unclear how much income will be lost from winter storm Goliath. The dairy industry anticipates reported losses from the cows themselves, loss of milk production, the milk dumped when dairy producers couldn’t access processors, wages lost when dairy employees couldn’t get to work, and rescued production moving forward. In beef cattle, stress experienced during the storm could have an effect on future meat quality, but that won’t be known for a time. 

“Older animals may need supplemental feed or to be given some extra feed care, but it just depends of those animals and what condition they were in when it all started,” said Adams of the value of beef cattle that were stuck in the storm for a long period. “If they were in really good condition before, which a lot of them are, they tend to fare better in the weather.”

As the snow continues to melt, more specific numbers will be announced in terms of livestock and economic losses.

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