Heat causes mass cow deaths, state of emergency in Fresno County

FRESNO COUNTY, California - The heat is causing problems for local farmers again.

So many farm animals have died in the heat over the past month that the Fresno County Board of Supervisors have declared a state of emergency.

With June's intense heat waves, Valley farmers -- just like the ones at Maddox Dairy -- have seen a huge increase in cow deaths. Because of that increase, there's now no way to dispose of them which has the Valley in a state of emergency.

Cows, calves and livestock are a dairy farmer's treasure, and they're all in jeopardy from this summer's early heat waves.

Maddox Farm's owner Stephen Maddox says his cow death rate doubled in just one week.

"And the ongoing effects close to 4 to 6 months or until their calve again if you can get them to breed again," Maddox said.

Even with intense shading and rotating cooling systems

"Add water so get more water into them. Sometimes we will add electrolytes to help. We turn the fans on more we try to put more water on their backs.

Division Manager of Environment Health Wayne Fox says so many farmers have seen a spike in deaths -- especially cows. The region's rendering plant cannot handle the volume of dead animals
and have stopped picking up carcasses leading the to the state of emergency.

"The concern is if they stay there they are a source of disease for other animals or even possibly humans," Fox said.

Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner Les Wesley says this hasn't happened in more than 10 years. The last time this state of emergency hit, Valley farmers lost of $300 million in losses.

Wesley said there were an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 livestock deaths in June due to the heat wave.

"They have a huge investment in these animals, and they don't just let them die, they do everything they can to not let them die," Wesley said.

For now, farmers are temporarily allowed to bury or compose their dead animals until the emergency state is lifted.

Maddox said, "It's just another chore we have to do another box to check off to make sure we are being as sustainable as possible."

The Board of Supervisors is having a special meeting Thursday to discuss the matter.


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