SUNNYSIDE, Wash. - A winter storm has devastated part of the dairy industry in Washington state. The frigid blizzard that hit over the weekend was too much for some cows. More than 1,000 have died.
"They huddled together and they tried to just keep moving away from the wind and they couldn't get away from the wind," dairy farmer Jason Sheehan told KAPP.
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It's a family affair for Sheehan and his wife Karen, who run J&K Dairy with Karen's parents. In 17 years of running the business, they've never experienced something like this. "I think if anything you know about this valley, things that don't stop are dairies and milk trucks. And when the milk trucks shut down, we knew it was bad. We've never had to shut down milking cows ever, no matter what happened," said Sheehan.
When the storm hit Saturday night, the Sheehans and their employees did everything they could. "We've dealt with high winds, we've dealt with snow, but we've never dealt with high winds and snow at the same time. You couldn't see your own hand in front of your face," said Sheehan.
For the first time, they ended up losing cows. Sheehan didn't want to say how many. "We started to find the cows, and then we decided we better start worrying about the cows that are living." His team, worked overtime, in the freezing cold.
"The whole team we got here takes a lot of pride, this is just an extension of all these people, so there were a lot of tears once they figured out what was going on," said Sheehan. Losing those cows was like losing a part of their family. "I think the biggest thing right now is just the emotional effect for everybody. We're all physically, emotionally, mentally drained but you can't stop, because we can't let them down."
"Mother Nature dealt us a pretty bad hand and and now we're trying to clean up as best we can and make sure we do what we always do, which is take care of cows," said Sheehan.
There were no reports of injuries for area farmers or crew members. State dairy officials say some cows have life-threatening injuries from the winter storm and that the death toll could rise if they can't recover.